World Cup 2014: Winners and Losers from Day 12
On Day 12 of the 2014 FIFA World Cup, four teams officially progressed to the round of 16.
The Netherlands, by virtue of a 2-0 win over Chile, clinched the top spot in Group B at the expense of the South Americans, who will also be going through to the knockout stages.
In Group A, Brazil sealed the top spot with a 4-1 trouncing of Cameroon while Mexico finished as runners-up after beating Croatia, 3-1.
Monday's matches also represented the final action of the tournament for Spain, Australia, Cameroon and Croatia.
The following are the biggest winners and losers from another intriguing day of World Cup play.
Winner: Arjen Robben, Who Captained the Netherlands to a Vital Win
With Robin van Persie suspended for the Netherlands' Group B tilt with Chile, it fell to Arjen Robben to wear the captain's armband in Sao Paulo.
As it happened, it seemed as if the added responsibility only made the 30-year-old that much more effective.
With his side nursing a late, one-goal lead, Robben sprinted downfield in possession and cut a lovely ball across the face of goal that Memphis Depay poked into the back of the net.
Loser: Xavi Hernandez, Whose International Career Came to a Sorry End
More than anyone else, Xavi Hernandez is emblematic of Spain's recent dominance.
In each of Euro 2008, the 2010 World Cup and Euro 2012, the midfielder orchestrated almost everything his side mustered going forward—his quick-passing, pressing play serving as a microcosm of La Roja's tiki-taka style.
But on Monday, the 34-year-old's international career likely came to an end. And he didn't even see the pitch.
An unused substitute, Xavi watched on as the national team he took to such heights introduced some fresh blood into the line-up ahead of Euro 2016 qualification.
According to Marca, he's also poised for a summer move to Qatar.
Winner: Neymar, Who Put Brazil on His Back Against Cameroon
It could have gone far worse for Brazil on Monday.
Just nine minutes after Neymar’s opener in Brasilia, Joel Matip pulled Cameroon level at Estadio Nacional Mane Garrincha. The Indomitable Lions were beginning to gain confidence. Had Croatia earned a win or draw in Recife, Brazil could have been knocked out of the World Cup with a two-goal loss.
But Neymar had other ideas.
Accepting the ball from Marcelo, he scampered downfield, cut inside his marker and beat goalkeeper Charles Itandje with a well-placed shot.
The goal also put the 22-year-old atop the tournament’s goal-scoring table with four.
It was also an all-round display that impressed Rio Ferdinand. Taking to Twitter, the former England international wrote, "Neymar is producing...looks so much more dangerous in a Brazil shirt than Barca's....and under more pressure than any other at WC2014...wow."
Loser: Wesley Sneijder, Who Continues to Struggle as the Netherlands Win
You could argue that the Netherlands have won all their matches at the 2014 World Cup in spite of Wesley Sneijder.
Four years ago in South Africa the attacker was among the best players in the tournament, but this time around the Galatasaray man is struggling mightily.
On Monday against Chile, he was withdrawn in the 75th minute—with La Roja coming on in waves—and replaced by Leroy Fer, who scored the game-winning goal moments later.
Over the course of the day he touched the ball just 28 times and completed a woeful 53 percent of his passes (statistics via WhoScored.com).
Winner: Rafael Marquez, Who Led Mexico into the Last 16
Mexico and Croatia went back down the tunnel with nothing to separate them after 45 minutes. But while El Tri required only a draw to seal second place in Group A, they did not sit back after the restart.
On the contrary, they ended up delivering their best offensive period of the competition to date, and leading the way was long-time defensive stalwart Rafael Marquez.
Shortly after Mexico were denied a penalty following Darijo Srna’s hand-ball, Marquez scored—his header from Hector Herrera’s corner giving the CONCACAF outfit the lead.
The 35-year-old also picked up an assist en route to a 3-1 win.
Loser: Ravshan Irmatov, Who Let Croatia off the Hook
Had Croatia managed to beat Mexico on Monday, referee Ravshan Irmatov would have been in a rather uncomfortable position.
Midway through the second half, Croatia captain Darijo Srna contacted the ball with both hands as he made a diving save to the right of goalkeeper Stipe Pletikosa.
But Irmatov, who also ignored a foul inside the box on the same play, did not award the Mexicans a penalty—infuriating El Tri manager Miguel Herrera.
Thankfully for Irmatov, Rafael Marquez opened the scoring just a few minutes later.
Winner: David Villa, Who Concluded His International Career in Style
Monday’s Group B dead rubber clash against Australia was David Villa’s final international match.
And he went out in style.
With nine minutes to play in the first half the striker turned Juanfran’s cross into goal with a neat back-heel—his 59th goal for Spain.
Upon his exit in the 57th minute, he was inconsolable, and after the match La Roja manager Vicente del Bosque admitted he hadn’t even known Villa had decided to retire from international football.
“He seemed very annoyed,” del Bosque told the BBC. “He said it was his last game, but I didn’t know that. I’m sure he was upset.”
Loser: Cameroon, Who Failed to Pick Up a Single Point
At least they scored a goal.
Cameroon’s World Cup campaign came to a merciful end on Monday in Brasilia, where they were humiliated 4-1 by Brazil.
The loss was their third in three outings at the competition, and until Joel Matip found the back of the net midway through the first half they hadn’t scored a single goal.
The World Cup will now go on without the Indomitable Lions, who will hardly be missed.
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