Brazilian striker Neymar was the toast of the home crowd at Estadio Nacional in Brasilia on Monday. When the brilliant forward scored his first goal in 17th minute against Cameroon, he created two century marks. His goal was the 100th of the 2014 FIFA World Cup and it came with Brazil playing their 100th World Cup finals match. Elsewhere, Netherlands beat Chile 2-0; Mexico defeated Croatia 3-1 and in an inconsequential face-saving encounter, Spain outplayed Australia 3-0.
Against Brazil, Cameroon played without undue pressure. This helped them mount dangerous attacks on Brazilian goal and they would have taken the lead if Vincent Aboubakar’s firm shot was not saved by Marcelo. In 17th minute, a delicate side-footed dancing shift from Neymar, on a low cross by Luiz Gustavo, brought 69000 fans on their feet. However, the roaring crescendo turned to a deafening silence in 26th minute, when Matip equalized for Cameroon from a great pass by Allan Nyom, who left Dani Alves stranded before finding Matip on the right spot. The equalizer brought new life to Brazilians, who attacked Cameroon with renewed vigor. It was Neymar again, who restored Brazil’s lead in 34th minute from a long ball sent by Marcelo, after two corners taken by Cameroon in two previous minutes. Once he got the possession, the brilliant Neymar moved in to the Cameroon box and finished with a low shot into the goal. After the break, Scolari replaced Paulinho with Fernandinho and the midfielder took no time to set up David Luiz on the left. Luiz ran quickly and centered a pass to Fred, who headed in from just four yards to make it 3-1 for Brazil. In 84th minute, Brazil scored their fourth goal, when a combination of Fred, Oscar and Fernandinho ended up with Fernandinho getting a goal for himself.
In Sao Paulo, Netherlands and Chile played a racy game that went on goalless until the 77th minute. Though the Dutch had ensured entry into the round of 16, victory here could avoid an early meeting with Brazil. Substitution of Leroy Fer paid immediate dividends. But it was Arjen Robben, who played a huge role in the Dutch victory. Two minutes after Leroy Fer came; he was fed a high cross by Daryl Janmaat from right. Fer jumped high in air and produced an unstoppable header to put the Dutch ahead 1-0. After this goal Chilean forwards crowded Netherlands’ penalty area and looked like producing an equalizer. But when Netherlands got a counter-attack chance, they grabbed it both hands. The game was already into the injury time, when Robben’s shooting low cross was ended by the sliding Memphis Depay to make it 2-0 for the Dutch. Despite the loss, Chile is still in the round of 16 and they will meet Mexico in their next match on Saturday.
In another match on Monday at Recife, Mexico’s 3-1 win over Croatia took them to the round of 16. Their next game will be against the Group B toppers, Netherlands next Sunday. The match began with Mexico going defensive since all they needed was a draw. Croatia used the opportunity to make several attacks on Mexican goal. In between, Mexico also mounted attacks and Hector Herrera nearly scored in the 15th minute. In the 72nd minute, captain Rafael Marquez leapt high and met an incoming cross to head into the goal. Three minutes later, in a dangerous counter attack, an unmarked Guardado sneaked in the goal area and completed a crisp finish by beating Croatian goalkeeper Stipe Pletikosa. Javier Hernandez was the late substitution but he made his mark by a fine close-range header in the 82nd minute. For Croatia, Ivan Perisic scored a consolation goal in dying stages.
In Curitiba, Spain and Australia played for an inconsequential dead rubber after making the exits from the tournament. Regardless, the 2010 champions played for salvaging some lost pride. Andres Iniesta was involved in the first two goals scored by Spain. In 36th minute, Iniesta picked up the all on the right flank and passed it to Juanfran, who ran with a scorching pace past Jason Davidson. Meanwhile Villa, who had kept himself on the left swiftly entered the penalty area to meet the impending cross from Juanfran. Villa got the ball but didn’t do anything silly. Rather he smartly flicked it into the goal through the legs of Alex Wilkinson past the goalkeeper Mat Ryan. The second goal in the 70th minute was another beauty. Iniesta picked up the ball just outside the Australian box and waited for Fernando Torres to finish his run, before passing the ball to the legendary striker. Torres waited a split second after touching the ball and scored from a calculated shot on Ryan’s right. Spain made it 3-0 in the end when Cesc Fabregas sent a fine cross to Juan Mata, who shot between Ryan’s legs.