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Spurs and Liverpool target shines despite World Cup defeat

| 13.06.2014

After years of increasingly frenzied anticipation the World Cup kicked off in grand fashion with Brazil’s 3-1 comeback win over Croatia in Sao Paulo.

Hometown hero Neymar cast aside any notion he would stumble under the pressure of carrying the hosts’ hopes on his tiny shoulders with a brace to kill Croatian hopes of an early upset.

The waiflike striker is now the 11/4 favourite to end the tournament as top scorer,  with Brazil also top dogs in the market to win the World Cup at 11/4.

However, the victory was hardly a stroll in the park for Luiz Felipe Scolari’s men, and Croatia left Sao Paulo with several grievances regarding the refereeing of the match.

The key moment came in the 69th minute when Fred went down in the box under the smallest exertion of pressure from Dejan Lovren, with Neymar converting the spot kick to make it 2-1.

The Southampton centre-back has been the subject of interest from both Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur this summer and is rumoured to have handed in a transfer request.

Despite the penalty and Croatia’s eventual loss, there was no shortage of positives in Lovren’s performance.

No player made more clearances than the Saints man’s 11 and Lovren also won three aerial duels as his side set out to frustrate the hosts.

Brazil’s two most advanced players, Hulk and Fred, both underwhelmed in the face of the Blazers’ well-marshalled defence.

Fred in particular had a day to forget. The Confederations Cup top scorer failed to take a single shot and had fewer touches of the ball than anyone else on his side.

The Fluminense striker got on the ball just 20 times, four times less than keeper Julio Cesar.

Lovren can take much of the credit for marking Fred out of the game and the referee should face more awkward questions than the Croatian defender about the penalty.

Despite giving away that spot kick and his side’s eventual loss, Lovren showed his suitors that he could carry his Southampton form onto the international stage.

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Alex Fortune