World Cup Day 12: Neymar fires Brazil to round-of-16

Spain grab consolation win over Australia

It’s bizarre to see Spain heading into a match knowing that they have no chance of progression, but that was the case when the Spaniards met Australia in their final match of the 2014 World Cup.

Having lost their first two games to Netherlands and Chile, the defending champions knew that they were already out of the tournament, but at the very least they’d want to leave with one win under their belt.

They met an Australian side that, despite losing to Chile and Netherlands, had performed far better than expected. This wouldn’t be an easy victory for Spain.

David Villa, one of the beneficiaries of a rotated Spain side, opened the scoring with a brilliant backheel in the 36th minute. Villa, who is retiring from international football after this match, came off later in the game visibly emotional at having to say goodbye to his country.

Chelsea’s Fernando Torres doubled Spain’s lead in the 69th minute when he slotted into the bottom corner, and another Chelsea player, new signing Cesc Fabregas, set up a goal for teammate Juan Mata to finish and give Spain a 3-0 victory.

The victory gives Spanish fans a shred of happiness, but their elimination from the tournament will haunt them for years to come.

Where next for Spain? That’s a question manager Vincente Del Bosque must ponder. This was the end of an era, but it an opportunity for rebirth.

Netherlands win third straight to top Group B

In Group B’s other game, Chile met Netherlands in a top-of-the-group match-up to determine who would come out on top.

Both had already beaten Spain and Australia to decide progression, but they still had a lot to play for – the winner would avoid the first placed team from Group A (likely Brazil) in the next round.

Right from the off, it was evident why these two teams had already qualified – both were extremely confident in possession, playing attractive football and always looking to attack.

They were very well matched – a goalless, but exciting, first half of football meant that the Netherlands were top of Group B on goal difference.

Chile, who needed a win to claim top spot, came out fighting after half time. But it was the Dutch who drew first blood – a set piece from wingback Daryl Janmaat met the head of substitute Leroy Fer, who had only been on the pitch for minutes, and the Dutch had a 77th-minute lead.

The Chileans, inspired by catalyst Alexis Sanchez, through everybody forward in an attempt to level the game.

But this left them vulnerable at the back, and Memphis Depay, another Dutch substitute, sealed the result when he bundled home a cross from Arjen Robben in the 90th minute to finish the game at 2-0 to the Netherlands.

The result solidifies top spot for the Netherlands, who win the group with three wins from three games. For Chile, they have to be content with second place. Their opponents in the next round would be determined by the Group A’s results later in the day.

Neymar propels Brazil to round-of-16

Host nation Brazil met Cameroon in their final match of Group A; Cameroon came into this game knowing they were already out, while even a tie for Brazil would see them through to the next round.

Brazil quickly took control of the game. The hosts had all of the attacking impetus, and Neymar gave them an early lead when he opened up his body and slotted home a 17th-minute cross from Luiz Gustavo. Brazil looked good, and the flood gates threatened to open.

But Cameroon fought valiantly, equalizing only nine minutes later when centreback Joel Matip evaded Brazilian defender David Luiz and tapped in a low cross. Cameroon weren’t going to make this easy for Brazil.

The Brazilians, however, had other ideas. Once again, they looked to Neymar for inspiration – once again, he delivered.

The superstar picked up the ball and dribbled across the box before firing a low drive (his fourth of the tournament) into the bottom left corner of the Cameroonian goal to give Brazil a 2-1 lead going into half.

After the break, journeyman striker Fred extended Brazil’s lead with a close-range finish, and combative midfielder Fernandinho scored with six minutes to go to put the cherry on top of a convincing 4-1 Brazilian victory.

Brazil have lived up to their pre-tournament hype, progressing from Group A in first place. However, they’ll need to continue improving to face even tougher challenges ahead.

They are now set up to face Chile in a South American battle, and they will need to be at their absolute best to beat a very strong Chilean side.

Neymar has been the man for the big occasion so far, and the samba star will need to maintain his red-hot form to keep his country firing.

Mexico win in tight Group A decider

In the day’s other late match, Mexico and Croatia went head-to-head in a crucial Group A decider.

Mexico started the day in a better position, knowing that a win or a tie would send them into the next round. For Croatia, it was a must-win encounter.

Neither team rested on their laurels – the game was lively right from the off, with both teams trying to get the goal that would put them through to the next round.

But the half time whistle brought a close to a stalemate; despite both trying to score, neither team had tested the opposition goalkeeper.

The second half brought more of the same, both sides desperate to score, but also desperate not to concede. But as the half progressed, it was clearly Mexico who were in the ascendancy.

The Mexicans were aggrieved when they were denied a clear penalty for a hand ball by Croatian defender Darijo Srna, but they made the breakthrough soon after – legendary captain Rafael Marquez powered home a 72nd-minute header to send Mexican fans into a state of ecstasy.

Only three minutes later, Mexican winger Andreas Guardado doubled the lead, and substitute Javier Hernandez scored his side’s third goal in 10 minutes to clinch progression.

With only three minutes to go, Ivan Perisic pulled one back for Croatia, but it was too little too late. Croatia’s Ante Rebic received his marching orders for a reckless challenge, and the Mexicans held on to claim the 3-0 win.

The Mexicans advance from Group A in second place, having conceded only a single goal all tournament. This sets them up for a round-of-16 match against the Netherlands – a fascinating encounter between too very in-form sides.

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