Today marked the last group matches for those in Groups A and B. Group B had already been decided, with Spain making a shock departure from the tournament along with Australia, whilst The Netherlands and Chile had already guaranteed their place in the last 16. Group A was still yet to be decided, with Brazil, Mexico and Croatia all still able to qualify. Brazil faced off against Cameroon, who were already out of the tournament, whilst Mexico and Croatia played knowing that a win for either would put them through. In Group B, Spain played Australia in what was effectively a dead rubber, but Spain needed a win to avoid finishing bottom of the table, whilst the two teams who had already qualified, Netherlands and Chile, played with the incentive of finishing top of the table.
Brazil 4-1 Cameroon
Brazil eased through to the last 16 with a brilliant performance against Cameroon. A full to the brim Estadio Nacional provided a brilliant atmosphere for the match, with nearly all of them urging the host country to win. From the start Brazil went for an attacking mentality to get the result they needed, and they almost opened the scoring when Paulinho’s shot was blocked from a Hulk cross, and a swift counter-attack from Cameroon almost got them a goal but Marcelo was there to block Vincent Aboubakar’s strike. Brazil though were looking really dangerous in attack and scored the opening goal of the match when Luiz Gustavo’s cross was put into the bottom corner from their superstar Neymar, which rather appropriately was the 100th goal of this World Cup. Neymar almost doubled Brazil’s lead with a powerful volley, but this time the Cameroonian keeper Charles Itandje was on hand to brilliantly punch it away. Despite the ease at which Brazil were creating chances up front, their defence still looked a bit weak, and Cameroon punished that weakness to equalise; Allan Nyom got past Dani Alves and crossed for Joel Matip to send the stadium into silence. However, this goal was a brief blip in Brazil’s performance, and they quickly retook the lead when Marcelo passed to Neymar who raced at the Cameroon defence and wrong footed Itandje. That goal incredibly was his 35th in 52 international matches, which shows why he is regarded as one of the best players in the World at the moment. A fabulous team move could have extended Brazil’s lead, but Hulk mistimed his shot.
Fernandinho came on at the break, and made an immediate impact when he sent Hulk clear, but he was brilliantly tackled by Henri Bedimo. He then found David Luiz who crossed for Fred to increase their lead, even though replays showed he was offside. The goalscoring was complete when Fernandinho scored a superb fourth to put Brazil through to the last 16 where they will play Chile.
Mexico 3-1 Croatia
Mexico defeated Croatia to put them through to the last 16, whilst knocking their opposition out of the World Cup. All four goals in this match came in the latter stages with the first half being goalless, despite Mexico having several chances to take the lead. Croatian striker Mario Mandzukic was inches away from nodding in, but Mexican defender Paul Aguilar made a great last ditch header to deny him. But then Mexico had two great opportunities, first Hector Herrera crashed a shot off the crossbar from 25 yards, before Oribe Peralta was played through but shot wide. Ivan Perisic had a rare chance for Croatia but his shot was off-target.
The second half started with Croatia showing more attacking flair, but no real chances fell to them. As the minutes ticked away, Mexico took the lead with 18 minutes left just after being denied a penalty for handball, with Rafael Marquez scoring from a corner. After that goal Croatia crumbled, and Mexico quickly scored their second of the evening; Peralta setting up Andres Guardado to shoot into the roof of the net. Manchester United striker Javier Hernandez then scored a third with a header to all but guarantee Mexico the win they needed. Perisic scored with a low shot that beat Mexican keeper Guillermo Ochoa at his near post to give Croatia a consolation goal, but Croatia’s tournament ended on a sour note when Ante Rebic was shown a straight red card for a reckless foul on Carlos Pena, but Mexico qualify and will face the Netherlands in the last 16.
Group A Final Standings
Country W D L GD Pts
1) BRA 2 1 0 +5 7
2) MEX 2 1 0 +3 7
3) CRO 1 0 2 +0 3
4) CAM 0 0 3 -8 0
Netherlands 2-0 Chile
Two late goals from the Netherlands gave them victory over Chile and meant they finished top of Group B. Coming into this match, both teams had already qualified for the last 16 after both achieved victories over Australia and cup holders Spain. Robin van Persie was suspended and this could be seen in a first half where neither keeper had to make a save, the best chance came from Arjen Robben, who shot just wide following a long run up the pitch, minutes after his free kick was headed wide from very close range from Stefan de Vrij. Another free kick, this time from Chile, was headed goalwards by Felipe Gutierrez but was just wide of the goal as the first half finished goalless.
It wasn’t until the middle of the second half when both goalkeepers were called into action, but the saves each had to make were relatively straightforward. Memphis Depay then stung the fingertips of Claudio Bravo with a powerful long-range attempt, before substitute Leroy Fer gave the Netherlands the lead with a great header from the resulting corner. Chile then pushed forwards in numbers in order to get an equaliser but they were caught on the counter-attack, and a great pass found an onside Robben who ran to the byline and put in a cross that Depay converted right at the death to give the Netherlands the honour of topping Group B, and will play Mexico in the last 16, whilst Chile face a tough test against hosts Brazil.
Australia 0-3 Spain
Spain ended their 2014 World Cup campaign with a consolation win over Australia in what was effectively a dead rubber match. However in the opening stages of the match the reigning champions still looked shellshocked from being knocked out in the group stages, with a wayward David Villa volley from just outside the six yard area summing up their tournament so far. Villa then sent in a cross that went right across the face of goal but neither Fernando Torres nor Koke could provide the touch that would have sent it into the net. But the chances kept coming from Spain, and a brilliant through ball from Andres Iniesta found Juanfran on the wing, and his cross found Villa who placed the ball past Australian keeper Mat Ryan. A mistake from Spain then almost gave Australia an equaliser, but keeper Pepe Reina was on hand to clear the ball away.
The second half started with Australian player Matt McKay shooting on the volley after Spain tried to clear a corner, but it was just over the bar. Iniesta then turned provider for Fernando Torres to slot the ball in to double Spain’s lead halfway through the second half. Juan Mata then completed the victory for Spain after scoring from a tight angle through the legs of keeper Ryan to sign off their World Cup and to regain at least some of the lost pride that their early exit has caused.
Group B Final Standings
Country W D L GD Pts
1) NED 3 0 0 +7 9
2) CHI 2 0 1 +2 6
3) SPA 1 0 2 -3 3
4) AUS 0 0 3 -6 0