2014 FIFA World Cup: Day 12 Recap

Brazil's Neymar was unstoppable on Monday

Neymar Shines for Brazil; Mexico Moves Ahead

Give Cameroon credit—the 4-1 scoreline in their loss to Brazil belies their determination and hard-nosed play even after having been eliminated from the World Cup. Brazil’s Neymar, as he was supposed to be, was the star of the show, and Cameroon’s defenders got on his case early, pushing the slight Brazilian around and trying to keep him rattled. But it only worked momentarily, and Neymar opened the scoring in the 17th minute, benefitting when Luis Gustavo picked a Cameroon defender’s pocket and delivered a pass Neymar couldn’t miss. Cameroon levelled the score minutes later, as slack Brazilian defense gave Allan Nyom two chances to cross, the second of which found Joel Matip all alone in front of Brazil’s goal. But Brazil took over, substituting their formidable offense for any substantial defense—Neymar found himself in too much space at the 35th minute, took his time to pull the keeper off his angle and put a shot just out of reach. By the time Fred finally notched his first goal of the tournament the game was well out of reach, and Fernandinho’s goal in the final minutes only confirmed what we already knew.

Croatia became the first team to score against Mexico, breaking a shutout streak that lasted 267 minutes for goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa—it’s just too bad for Croatia that Mexico has already scored three times by then. For 72 minutes the game was in the balance—Croatia holding most of the ball but Mexico making more of their opportunities—until Mexico’s captain, 35-year-old Rafael Marquez, got the best of a header and put his team in the lead. Three minutes later Mexico struck again, rushing forward in numbers and making it impossible to defend against Andres Guardado’s strike. Another Mexican header, a ping-ponging effort that last touched Javier Hernandez before meeting the net, answered all remaining questions of who deserved to go on in the World Cup. Croatia’s Ante Rebic showed his frustration in the final minutes by hacking at a Mexican defender’s legs and earning a red card, but no one in Croatia will even remember the transgression, only the tragic performance that preceded it.

Netherlands Win Group B; Spain Saves Face

Group B was all but decided days ago, with the Netherlands and Chile as the haves and Australia and Spain the have-nots. But final seeding was still up for grabs Monday, with the winner of Netherlands-Chile probably avoiding powerhouse Brazil in the round of 16 while Spain and Australia each hoped to salvage some pride with a single win before their inevitable exits.

The Dutch were favoured to top the group, needing only a draw with Chile to do so, but they had more to show even while missing their captain, Robin Van Persie, who was out after earning yellow cards in each of the first two games. Chile revealed their gameplan early on, maintaining possession and inching toward the Dutch goal. Alexis Sanchez made his first desperate attempt to draw a penalty in the 31st minute, flailing after the faintest contact—he would repeat the performance in the second half, again to no avail, before giving up and using his considerable talent instead of gamesmanship to create scoring chances. On the Dutch side, Arjen Robben was again the engine of his team’s offence, involving himself in both of the game’s goals. On the first he played a corner kick backward to Jaanmat, who curled the ball into the area to meet Leroy Fer’s head for his first international goal; the second began with Robben sprinting down the left side of the pitch and threading a pass in front to Memphis Depay, who made no mistake of it.

Meanwhile, Spain will take little satisfaction from their 3-0 win over Australia, but at least managed to give their fans something to cheer for. Spain put on a clinic of possession and footwork that Australia never could have matched—David Villa’s goal, redirected between his own legs, would have been heroic in a more meaningful game. Fernando Torres, forced to play off the bench in the first two matches, seemed to play with an attitude, his nonchalant goal to give Spain a 2-0 lead being a perfect example. Juan Mata closed out the scoring with immense patience, outwaiting the Aussie keeper and popping a cheeky shot through his legs. Spain showed how good they could be, but it was far too little, far too late.

Brazil predictably finished atop Group A, booking a date with Chile on Saturday, while Mexico will have their hands full with the Netherlands in their match on Sunday.

Tags: World Cup 2014

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