Hosts to play Chile and Holland to take on Mexico.
Where would Brazil be without the poster boy of this World Cup? Neymar pounced for two goals as Brazil trounced Cameroon 4-1 in Group A to finish atop the mountain. In round 16, the hosts will play Chile which finished second in Group B.
Goals galore between Brazil and Cameroon.
It was a wonderful game, end-to-end stuff, attacking football, defensive mistakes. The fans inside the Estadio Nacional were getting Wimbledon-style neck-aches from the back and forth action.
The brace put Neymar into the lead in the race for the Golden Boot. Four in three games for the Brazilian, who moves up to sixth in the nation’s all-time goalscoring charts — above Rivaldo. He has bagged 35 goals in 52 caps now. Not bad.
If Neymar was not on the pitch for the rest of the tournament for whatever reason, then Brazil wouldn’t win the World Cup. He is that important. When his country needs him, Neymar has been absolutely sensational. Ironically, though, what will have pleased Luiz Felipe Scolari most about the result is the two second half goals that didn’t come from Neymar.
There was a time in the match when it looked like Brazil would finish second in its group, thus forcing it to meet the mightier Holland in the next round. At one stage it was 3-1 Brazil and Mexico 3-0 over Croatia, while goal average was plus 4 for each. Then Brazil scored its fourth and Croatia scored against Mexico, making the goal average plus 5 to plus 3 in favour of Mexico.
The irony of the Cameroon team was its threat to strike over win bonuses and then getting beat in all three games.
It will be fantastic to get the knockout stage underway, because World Cups are not remembered for the group stages – unless, of course, you are England and have already been knocked out — but for the knockout games. Traditionally Chile’s World Cup campaigns come to an end when it plays Brazil. In Brazil the idea that Chile could beat it is unthinkable. Chile will try to impose its game on Brazil, but Brazil certainly believes it will win.
Croatia is on its way back across the Atlantic after going down 3-1 to Mexico, also in Group A.
Mexico will now play Holland in the last 16.
Mexico had Croatia surrounded (photo : ar.fifa)
Hands up if you were surprised that Rafael Marquez at 35 is still kicking about the international scene. The old-timer rolled back the years by out-jumping Vedran Corluka to nod the Mexicans ahead.
Croatia was poor in midfield, creating hardly anything. Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic did not do what you expect them to do in midfield.
For Croatia, it was not a total loss. The best pass of the World Cup so far was by Ivan Rakitic for Croatia’s sole goal. Croatia also did what Brazil could not: get past Mexican keeper Guillermo Ochoa.
Think how different things would have turned out if the two wrongly disallowed Mexico goals in the first game against Cameroon had been given. Would have made for a hectic end to the final group matches.
In Group B, the Dutch finished with nine points, just as they did four years ago. They got all the way to the final then. Will there be a repeat?
In Brazil, Holland got by Chile 2-0, and will now face Mexico in the last 16.
The Dutch left it late but really did a number on Chile, tactically setting themselves up very well.
Chile should have gone for it. It had to because a draw would have still seen it play Brazil. But there was only one team trying to win this match and it wasn’t Chile.
Down by two late goals, Chile could only sit back knowing it could not realistically win the group. Instead it needed to rest its players for Brazil.
Speaking of rest, it is important to note that Holland will get an extra day’s rest before the knockout stage.
Spain and Australia both headed home in their Group B encounter which meant nothing after the two bowed out a game before.
Spain, the defending champions, had slightly more to prove, so beat Australia 3-0.
It was the first time in 12 World Cup matches that Spain scored three goals in a game, and from just four shots on target.
It could have been four, five or six but that would not have reflected just how well Australia played in this tournament.It was excellent in periods in the first game against Chile and against The Netherlands too. It could have been 3-2 up on Holland and had the Dutch rattled but went down due to a goalkeeping mistake.
Spain, unfortunately, hit form at the wrong time.