At the conclusion of Day 12 of the World Cup, two groups officially came to a close. Four teams have no more part to play in the World Cup with some of those clubs disappointing more than others. However, the party in Brazil will go long into the night as Brazil finished on top of Group A as the Netherlands finished at the apex of Group B.
MEXICO DOMINATE CROATIA TO ADVANCE TO ROUND OF 16
Mexico needed help from the United States and Graham or San Zusi to aid in their qualification to the World Cup. Now, the Mexicans are hitting top form, dismantling Croatia in a 3-1 win to take second place in Group A.
In a feisty affair that eventually saw Croatia’s Ante Rebic awarded a red card for an unnecessary challenge late in the match. The nation in the checkered red and white kit needed a victory to secure a place in the Round of 16. However, it was the Mexicans that were the hungrier side throughout the 90 minutes as they continued to prod for a goal to ease their route into the knockout stage.
The breakthrough came through Rafa Marquez– the oft-villified and more often than not rightfully so- heading in Hector Herrera‘s corner in the 72nd minute. Herrera played the crucial set-piece into the box and was unlucky to not have a goal himself in the first half after rattling the woodwork with a ferocious shot.
From that point Mexico just piled it on. Andres Guardado scored three minutes later and then Javier Hernandez– a striker in much need of a confidence boost- headed in from close range.
If there were still questions over Miguel Herrera‘s influence since he took over, it was on full display in the win over Croatia. Goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa left his goal area to jump into Herrera’s arms to celebrate. It’s not just the tactical buttons Herrera has pushed, but the belief he has instilled in his charges that has Mexico currently flying high.
They will now play an equally in-form team in the Netherlands, while Croatia will head home, somewhat aggrieved by the calls that went against them in the opener in Brazil, but can have little excuse by squandering their chance to move on with an indifferent performance.
BRAZIL TAMES INDOMITABLE LIONS TO EARN TOP SPOT IN GROUP A
The Samba party just got a whole lot bigger. Brazil has officially moved into the Round of !6, topping Group A after defeating a lackluster Cameroon 4-1.
The road wasn’t always smooth for Brazil in a game they were expected to dismantle a severely under-whelming Indomitable Lions. After Neymar‘s opener Joel Matip scored from close-range.
However, it was Neymar’s sparkling performance that eventually put the host nation in front for good. The 22-year-old was heavily involved showcasing his flair and creativity throughout the match. There was not too much better than his spinning pass in a buildup at the end of the first half that was begging to be scored only for Hulk to fire wide.
Fred added a third goal even though there was a hint of offside as he headed in from the six yard box. Fernandinho then struck a fourth for the hosts completing the rout.
Brazil now faces Chile in the Round of 16, the same nation they dispatched in 2010 at the same stage. Cameroon- nearly went on strike due to financial reasons- never earned their pay, struggling mightily through the three group matches losing all three. It was a forgettable World Cup for the Indomitable Lions.
NETHERLANDS PAINT GROUP B ORANJE WITH THIRD WIN
The Netherlands and Chile were both hoping to top the group and avoid a Round of 16 match against Brazil. The nation clad in Orange eventually prevailed with two second half goals- Leroy Fer and Memphis Depay– to finish the group with nine points.
Both teams had several chances in the first half, but either side failed to find a breakthrough. The Chileans didn’t look as fluid as they did in their previous matches, although Alexis Sanchez again had a solid game.
Knowing they only needed a draw to finish in the top spot, the Netherlands looked to use the counter-attack to their advantage. Defensively, Oranje was strong and looked to use Arjen Robben as an outlet for attacks.
The goals for the Netherlands came from two substitutes. Chile failed to mark Fer as he rose well and finished with an emphatic header. It was his first international goal. Depay, who scored after starting from the bench against Australia, did it again to cap off the victory for the Netherlands.
Robben again involved in the counter, made a great run to receive the ball from Nigel De Jong and used his pace to get in a position to deliver a delicately weighted ball as Depay tapped in at the back post.
Chile, who was knocked out by Brazil in 2010, was hoping to avoid that matchup. However, it will pose a chance to dispatch the host nation from the tournament. The Netherlands will play Mexico in the next round.
SPAIN’S REIGN ENDS WITH A CONVINCING WIN OVER AUSTRALIA
Spain, who were on top of the world after winning the 2010 World Cup with Euro victories on either side, had a dismal showing in Brasil. After losing their first two matches, they were able to regroup and finish with a nice send-off defeating Australia 3-0.
Throughout the three games, Spain never quite looked themselves. The high pressing after losing the ball was missing letting the Socceroos have their fair share of possession. However, Spain was able to show the class that saw them collect all trophies before them in earlier competitions.
David Villa, who is heading to Major League Soccer’s New York City FC, scored a cheeky back-heel in what should be his final international match. Fernando Torres doubled the lead finishing from an Andres Iniesta– in his 100th cap- pass. Juan Mata then tucked away a third after receiving a pass from fellow substitute Cesc Fabregas.
Australia were unlucky to not find any points in this World Cup- for the first time in the nation’s history- as they played very well at times. Although Spain had a disappointing early exit, their golden generation will still go down as one of the best in history. At some point the Spanish reign was going to come to an end, but as they say Long Live The King.