World Cup 2014: Best XI of Day 12 with Neymar, Villa and Robben
Day 12 of the 2014 FIFA World Cup featured inspirational performances from key players.
In Sao Paulo, the Netherlands scored a pair of late goals to beat Chile and finish atop Group B, while at the same time, Spain defeated Australia, 3-0, in a dead rubber.
In Group A play, Brazil shellacked Cameroon, 4-1, to win Group A. Mexico, meanwhile, scored three second-half goals to finish runners-up to the host nation after beating Croatia, 3-1, in Recife.
There were standout performers in each contest, and over the next few slides, we’ll have a look at Day 12’s Best XI.
Goalkeeper: Guillermo Ochoa, Mexico
Mexico’s No. 1 goalkeeper is no stranger to this space.
A hero in El Tri’s scoreless draw with Brazil on June 17, Guillermo Ochoa was once again an important part of a Mexico win against Croatia on Monday, although his contribution was more subtle.
Rather than making spectacular saves, the 28-year-old claimed cross after cross, won everything in the air and communicated well with his defenders.
The Netherlands will have to be at their best to find a way past him in the round of 16.
Right-Back: Paul Aguilar, Mexico
Paul Aguilar has been getting better and better throughout the World Cup, and against Croatia on Monday, he put in his best performance to date.
The 28-year-old wing-back absolutely dominated both Sime Vrsaljko and Ivica Olic, and on the offensive side of the ball, he passed accurately and took a pair of shots.
Club America may be fielding a few calls regarding Aguilar this summer.
Centre-Back: Ron Vlaar, Netherlands
Ron Vlaar has already put a topsy-turvy season with Aston Villa behind him.
The Netherlands' most experienced defender had a new partner in Daley Blind on Monday, as Bruno Martins Indi was left out due to injury.
All Vlaar did was successfully close down Chile attacker Eduardo Vargas and play a vital role in Leroy Fer’s winner.
With Daryl Janmaat having played the ball into the goalmouth, Vlaar took two Chile internationals out of the play as Fer rose above his marker to head the ball into the back of the net.
Centre-Back: Rafael Marquez, Mexico
Mexico needed an inspirational performance from their captain on Monday, and that’s exactly what they got.
Just a few minutes after being denied a penalty following Croatia captain Darijo Srna’s handball, Rafael Marquez opened the scoring with a header from Hector Herrera’s corner and proceeded to pick up an assist as El Tri prevailed, 3-1, in Recife.
With the goal, Marquez has now scored in three World Cup tournaments.
Left-Back: Jordi Alba, Spain
Jordi Alba’s best performance of the World Cup came in a meaningless match against Australia.
With Spain already eliminated, the Barcelona full-back absolutely dominated the left-hand side of the pitch—touching the ball 108 times and contributing five tackles.
Had he and several other of his teammates played to such a level against the Netherlands and Chile, they might not have exited the World Cup so quickly.
Midfielder: Andres Iniesta, Spain
Like Jordi Alba—and Sergio Ramos and Xabi Alonso—Andres Iniesta saved his best performance of the World Cup for last, but it was too little, too late.
That said, the 30-year-old looked a vintage version of himself against Australia in Curitiba.
Late in the first half, he switched the ball over to the right-hand side for Juanfran to set up David Villa for the opener, and with 21 minutes remaining, his through ball found Fernando Torres for Spain’s second.
Midfielder: Fernandinho, Brazil
Fernandinho only played 45 minutes plus stoppages on Monday, but his performance was absolutely vital to Brazil’s 4-1 win over Cameroon.
A half-time replacement for the ineffective Paulinho, the Manchester City midfielder immediately started winning everything in the centre of the park and had a hand in Fred’s goal in the 49th minute.
Then, with six minutes remaining in Brasilia, he got one for himself following a neat exchange with Oscar.
Brazil manager Luiz Felipe Scolari will surely have seen enough to award Fernandinho a starting spot against Chile in the round of 16.
Midfielder: Andres Guardado, Mexico
Andres Guardado’s goal in the 75th minute proved to be the winner for Mexico against Croatia on Monday.
Having accepted Oribe Peralta’s drop pass, the 27-year-old smashed a left-footed effort into the back of the net to put his side up, 2-0.
The midfielder also helped close down Croatia playmaker Ivan Rakitic before being substituted in the 84th minute.
Forward: Arjen Robben, Netherlands
With Robin van Persie suspended, Arjen Robben wore the captain’s armband for the Netherlands on Monday.
He seemed to thrive with the added responsibility.
Running often at Chile defender Gary Medel, the 30-year-old took three shots in Sao Paulo and finally picked up the assist he deserved when he cut the ball back for Memphis Depay to sweep into goal.
“If you field creative football players you have a chance to cash in,” remarked Netherlands manager Louis van Gaal, per Ian Woodcock of the BBC, after the match—a 2-0 win.
Forward: David Villa, Spain
David Villa’s international career is over.
The Spain striker played his final match for his country on Monday, and true to form, he went out on the back of a goal-scoring performance.
With nine minutes left in the first half, he opened the scoring against Australia with a spectacular, back-heeled effort from Juanfran’s cross.
And he was none too happy to be substituted when manager Vicente del Bosque called his number in the 56th minute.
“[Villa] certainly seemed very annoyed,” del Bosque said, per Heath Chesters of Inside Spanish Football, after the final whistle. “He said it was his last game, but I didn’t know that. I’m sure he was upset.”
The World Cup has a new goalscoring leader.
With his brace against Cameroon, Brazil forward Neymar increased his World Cup tally to four and also surpassed Rivaldo on his country’s all-time list.
The 22-year-old’s first was a deftly touched deflection of Luiz Gustavo’s cross in the 17th minute, and his second, in the 34th, was an eye-catching solo play that culminated in a composed finish past goalkeeper Charles Itandje.
Statistics via WhoScored.com unless otherwise noted.