There was a brief moment during Day 12 of the World Cup that the millions of Brazil fans watching the host country take on Cameroon suddenly got real nervous.
After all, Cameroon scored the equalizing goal in the first half Monday with plenty of time remaining, and there was certainly a possibility that Brazil would fail to advance to the knockout stages with a loss (depending on the Mexico and Croatia contest). However, Neymar’s brilliance was more than enough for the rest of the game, and the home fans left elated and relieved.
In total, there were four matches during Day 12, as Groups A and B wrapped up group play. Brazil won 4-1, Spain beat Australia 3-0, Netherlands handled Chile 2-0 and Mexico destroyed Croatia down the stretch 3-1.
Here is a look at how all of Monday’s action impacted the World Cup table.
Spain 3, Australia 0
If it is possible to have a depressing 3-0 victory, Spain experienced it Monday.
The defending World Cup champions and top-ranked squad in the world in the FIFA rankings lost their first two games of the event and were already eliminated before the game with middling Australia even began. There was a noticeable lack of energy in the early going, but at least there was one bright side for Spain.
David Villa, the legendary Spain player who helped anchor this golden era for the squad, scored his 59th international goal in what was his first appearance of the World Cup. He was later subbed out, which led to an emotional moment, as ESPN FC noted:
Elsewhere for Spain, Liverpool goalkeeper Jose Reina made his first World Cup appearance a mere nine years after he originally played for the national team. He will certainly take solace from his team’s overall disappointment with his clean sheet Monday.
Netherlands 2, Chile 0
Both Netherlands and Chile were safely through to the knockout stages before their match began Monday, but they were playing for the top spot in Group B and wanted to avoid a likely clash with Brazil in the round of 16.
It was a defensive battle for the majority of the contest, but Netherlands broke through in the 77th minute when substitute Leroy Fer buried the ball in the net after Daryl Janmaat’s cross. Memphis Depay put the game on ice in stoppage time when he scored off of Arjen Robben’s setup.
Even though Netherlands won the game, Chile’s coach Jorge Sampaoli wasn’t pleased with his opponent’s defensive tactics since a tie would have given Netherlands the group title because of an impressive goal differential, according to Reuters, via Eurosport.yahoo.com: "They ended up winning, but in my opinion it was unfair because I think Chile made a huge effort to attack. We wanted to play and the Netherlands didn't.”
Those words ring a bit more hollow after a 2-0 defeat than they would have if the game finished in a 0-0 tie.
Brazil 4, Cameroon 1
As mentioned, there was a possible scenario Monday where Brazil could have been left on the outside looking in moving forward to the knockout stage, but Neymar made sure that didn’t happen against Cameroon.
Yes, Cameroon managed to tie the game at one in the first half and completely silence the home crowd, but Neymar scored two of his own in the first half. Eventually, Fred and substitute Fernandinho put two more in the back of the net, and Brazil won 4-1.
Few expected Cameroon to put up much of a fight, but the three-goal victory was critical because Brazil tied Mexico with seven points atop Group A. Thanks to goal differential, Brazil won the group and avoided an immediate date with Netherlands, who won all three of their group-stage matches.
Instead, Brazil will get a dangerous and athletic Chile squad.
Mexico 3, Croatia 1
Hopefully nobody in the crowd at the Mexico and Croatia contest made a run to the concessions stand in the second half, because it quickly went from a 0-0 defensive slugfest to a 3-0 Mexico lead down the stretch.
Eventually, Mexico won 3-1 and will next play a powerful Netherlands squad in the round of 16.
All of Mexico’s three goals from Rafael Marquez, Andres Guardado and Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez came in a 10-minute stretch. Since a tie would have sent Croatia home, they had to open up their attack when Mexico scored the first goal, which left the Croatians vulnerable to the counterattack.
Squawka Football captured the goal from Chicharito:
Throw in excellent Mexico goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa, and there was no chance for Croatia down the stretch. As Paul Carr of ESPN noted, this was business as usual for Mexico:
Most consecutive World Cups past the group stage (active streaks): Germany 15, Brazil 12, Mexico 6.— Paul Carr (@PCarrESPN) June 23, 2014
Still, a difficult game with Netherlands awaits. However, Monday’s game gave Mexico something of a blueprint going forward, given Ochoa’s impressive play in goal.
If he can keep Netherlands off the board through the first half, Chicharito can come in and provide fresh legs to the Mexican attack. Perhaps it will net a late goal and get the Mexicans into the quarterfinals.
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