Welp, that was not how this World Cup was supposed to start. Favorites and hosts Brazil opened the 2014 tournament in the worst imaginable way, conceding the opening goal to Croatia via a Marcelo own goal in the 11th minute. Croatian forward Ivica Olić played a low cross into the Brazilian penalty box and watched as teammate Nikica Jelavić took one misplaced touch, but was lucky to see it roll off of the hapless Real Madrid defender Marcelo into the Brazilian net.
Fortunately for the hosts, star striker Neymar was able to score a long low strike from just outside of the penalty box to equalize less than 20 minutes later, but it was still an embarrassing start to a tournament that has tested the Brazilian public’s love of its national team because of the huge price tag of the event.
It was the 37th own goal in World Cup history. There were two own goals in the first round of the previous World Cup. At the last World Cup that took place in Brazil, in 1950, Brazil was the beneficiary of an own goal in the 15th minute of a match against Spain. But Brazil had never conceded an own goal at a World Cup in 19 previous tournament appearances. The only other time a host has conceded an own goal was Mexico in the 1970 quarterfinals against Italy. The other three host nations to have been the beneficiary of own goals were the United States in 1994, France in 1998, and Germany in 2006.
The most famous own goal incident in World Cup history came 20 years ago in the 1994 World Cup, when Colombian star Andrés Escobar was charged with an own goal against the hosts United States. The incident became an international tragedy when Escobar was murdered upon his return home from the tournament, as documented in the superb 30 for 30 ESPN documentary “The Two Escobars” by Jeff and Michael Zimbalist.
The Escobar incident certainly puts things in perspective, but this goal will still probably go down as one of the most memorable own goals in the history of the Cup no matter how the rest of the tournament plays out.