Football: Scolari thanks fans for passionate support

SAO PAULO - Brazil coach Luiz Felipe Scolari praised the passionate home crowd in Sao Paulo for inspiring his players to fight back to win their World Cup opener against Croatia on Thursday.

The tournament favourites were rocked by an early own goal in the Corinthians Arena before recovering to win 3-1 after a hotly disputed penalty converted by Neymar.

Scolari, who masterminded Brazil's triumph at the 2002 World Cup, praised his players for keeping their nerve in the fevered atmosphere and coping with the suffocating pressure, particularly after falling behind.

"Our players were excellent in the sense of changing the result," he said.

"Overall, we have to congratulate all the fans in the stadium," said the coach, adding "it was different to what everyone could imagine".

The stadium was turned yellow as thousands of Brazilian fans thronged the stands, creating an electrifying atmosphere for the first match of the tournament.

Scolari singled out Oscar for special praise, saying he had had no doubts over the Chelsea man, who scored Brazil's third goal. Oscar's place was the subject of swirling debate in the run-up to the match.

Neymar was named man-of-the-match for his two goals but the Brazilian coach said the performance of Oscar deserved recognition.

"If there were a second award it would have been given to Oscar," said Scolari.

The Croatian camp hotly disputed the penalty that gave Brazil a 2-1 lead, awarded after Fred backed into Dejan Lovren and fell, but Scolari was adamant that the Japanese referee was right to award the spot kick.

"For me it was a penalty. I have seen it 10 times now and I think it was a penalty," he said.

Despite the win, Scolari warned against getting carried away as five-time champions Brazil seek their first World Cup win on home soil.

"There are six steps ahead of us. We have gone up the first step," he said.