WORLD CUP: Brazil advances to second round
Neymar lived up to the expectations of the World Cup host nation Monday, scoring two goals as Brazil routed Cameroon, 4-1, to reach the knockout stage as the top team in Group A.
The 22-year-old forward netted twice in the first half, on either side of midfielder Joel Matip’s goal for Cameroon in the 26th minute.
Fred and Fernandinho added second-half goals for Brazil, which will face South American rival Chile in the second round.
Neymar opened the scoring off a low cross by midfielder Luiz Gustavo in the 17th, deftly side-footing the ball home from close range, then restored the lead with a low right-foot strike from the top of the penalty area in the 35th after a pass by left back Marcelo.
“If I’m not mistaken this is our best game yet,” Neymar said. “Everyone deserves congratulations for their efforts until the end.”
Brazil finished Group A with seven points after two wins and a draw. It ended with the same points as Mexico but had a better goal difference.
Playing in its 100th World Cup match, Brazil needed at least a draw to advance. Elimination in the group stage would have been unthinkable for the five-time world champions playing at home. The only team to play in all 20 World Cups, Brazil has advanced to the second round in every tournament since 1970.
MEXICO 3, CROATIA 1: Mexico surged into the World Cup’s knockout stage for a sixth straight time with an emphatic win over Croatia.
Rafael Marquez, Andres Guardado and Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez scored in a 10-minute span in the second half, dooming a talented Croatia side to elimination from the group stage.
The Croatians had to win to advance and held the bulk of possession, but had trouble seriously threatening goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa, who kept out all efforts in the group stage until an 87th-minute consolation goal from Ivan Perisic.
Marquez struck first, beating Croatia defender Vedran Corluka to head home Hector Herrera’s corner kick in the 72nd minute. Three minutes later, Guardado found the net with a hard, left-foot shot after a cross from Oribe Peralta.
In the 82nd minute, Hernandez, the popular Manchester United striker who has been a second-half substitute in all three of Mexico’s matches, scored with a header after Herrera’s corner had glanced off the head of Marquez. Unbeaten Mexico finished with seven points, even with Brazil, but was relegated to second spot in the group on goal difference.
NETHERLANDS 2, CHILE 0: Leroy Fer scored a minute after coming on as a substitute to help give the Netherlands a victory over Chile and seal the top spot in Group B with its third straight win.
Fer had only just replaced Wesley Sneijder when he rose almost unmarked in the Chile penalty area to put the Dutch ahead with a powerful 77th-minute header. Another substitute, Memphis Depay, tapped in a cross from Arjen Robben in stoppage time to double the lead.
Both teams had already advanced to the second round, but Chile’s first loss of the tournament consigned it to second place in the group.
The Dutch now travel to Fortaleza to play Mexico, which finished second in Group A behind Brazil.
Chile began with its trademark fast, attacking style while the Dutch, with a five-man defense, looked content to sit back, absorb the pressure and hope to break out with swift counterattacks.
Chile left midfielder Arturo Vidal on the bench. The Juventus star underwent knee surgery last month but started Chile’s first two matches .
SPAIN 3, AUSTRALIA 0: Spain, the 2010 champion, salvaged some World Cup pride with a lopsided win over Australia in its last match at the tournament.
After losing their previous matches in Group B to the Netherlands and Chile, both teams went into the match knowing they could not advance to the second round.
David Villa, in his 97th and final appearance, put Spain ahead in the 36th minute with his record 59th goal, guiding Juanfran Torres’ pass into the net with the inside of his right foot. Juanfran had been found by a typically incisive pass by Andres Iniesta.
Iniesta was at the heart of the second goal too. Fernando Torres doubled Spain’s lead in the 69th as he steered the ball past Australia goalkeeper Maty Ryan following aq pass from Andres Iniesta.
Juan Mata added a third in the 82nd from close range after he was found in space by Cesc Fabregas. And David Silva nearly went close to making it four in the 89th but his shot from just outside the Australia penalty area went just wide.
Though nothing rested on the game, Spain showed some of the football that has seen it dominate the game over the past six years — winning Euro 2008, its first World Cup in South Africa in 2010 and then Euro 2012.
As a result of its victory, Spain avoided the worst World Cup title defense in history.
That label remains with the France team of 2002, which secured only one point and was shut out in all three games.