Brasilia, Brazil — Neymar played a starring role in Brazil’s Group A finale on Monday, bagging a brace to help put the host nation in first place with a 4-1 defeat of Cameroon at Estadio Nacional.
The Barcelona man, who scored two goals in Brazil’s opening match of the tournament, found the back of the net twice in the span of 18 minutes in the first half of Monday’s affair.
Joel Matip’s 26th-minute strike had given Cameroon a slight hope of taking a share of the spoils, but second-half tallies from Fred and Fernandinho rounded out the comfortable result for Brazil, which will take on Group B runner-up Chile in the round of 16 on Saturday.
Brazil opened the scoring after 17 minutes when Neymar got on the end of Luiz Gustavo’s low cross and guided a first-time effort just inside the far post.
Matip thought he had brought Cameroon level in the 25th minute when he rose high to meet a corner kick, but the Schalke man sent his powerful header off the crossbar.
But the 22-year-old made amends for the miss just one minute later when Allan Nyom broke free on the right flank and slipped a pass across the face of goal for Matip to tuck home from close range for his first international goal.
The two nations were level until the 35th minute when Neymar took a forward pass from Marcelo, drifted inside from the left flank and fired a low shot on target that wrong-footed goalkeeper Charles Itandje and ended up in the back of the net.
Fred broke his scoring duck just four minutes into the second half when he latched on to David Luiz’s ball played across goal and nodded the delivery home from close range.
Brazil continued to dominate the affair and managed to tack on a late goal in the 84th minute. A giveaway from the Indomitable Lions allowed Brazil to penetrate the penalty area with a well-worked move that saw Fernandinho get through on goal and slip a shot just inside the far post, capping a solid showing from the host nation.
Mexico 3, Croatia 1
Recife, Brazil — Mexico advanced to the knockout round for the sixth successive World Cup on Monday, securing a 3-1 win over Croatia at the Arena Pernambuco to finish second in Group A.
A win or a draw would have been enough to see Mexico into the last 16, and after a scoreless first half, Rafael Marquez found the net in the 72nd minute for El Tri.
Andres Guardado followed with a goal of his own three minutes later before substitute Javier Hernandez made it 3-0 to Mexico.
Ivan Perisic pulled a goal back for Croatia in the 87th, but it wasn’t nearly enough to prevent Mexico from advancing to face the Netherlands in the round of 16 on June 29.
Both sides were able to generate chances in the offensive third in the first 45 minutes, but neither goalkeeper was overly troubled.
The best opportunity for either side came in the 15th minute as Mexico’s Hector Herrera dribbled to the edge of the penalty area and lashed a shot toward goal that beat goalkeeper Stipe Pletikosa and crashed against the crossbar.
Croatia needed to win the game to advance, but it was Mexico that had the better of play after the interval and El Tri was unlucky not to be awarded a penalty kick when a shot from Guardado struck the arm of Croatia defender Darijo Srna, only to be waived away by referee Ravshan Irmatov.
However, the opening goal arrived 18 minutes from time when Herrera’s corner kick was served to the front of goal for Marquez, who got up to turn home a header that put Mexico in a great position to advance.
Things got even better for the Mexicans three minutes later when Oribe Peralta’s pass was fired home by a first-time effort from Guardado, while Croatia’s Ante Rebic had a shot cleared off the goal line by Hector Moreno, keeping Mexico up 2-0.
The lead swelled to 3-0 in the 82nd minute when Marquez flicked a corner kick on for Hernandez to finish at the back post.
Perisic scored the first goal of the tournament against Mexico three minutes from time, while Croatia finished the contest with 10 men after Rebic was sent off in the closing minutes for a terrible challenge on Mexico’s Carlos Pena.
Netherlands 2, Chile 0
Sao Paulo, Brazil — The Netherlands secured the top spot in Group B on Monday by getting a 2-0 victory over Chile at the Arena de Sao Paulo.
The Dutch continued their penchant for strong second-half displays, grabbing both of their goals after the interval.
The opener came in the 77th minute when Leroy Fer, who had only entered the match two minutes prior, nodded home a corner kick. Louis van Gaal’s men then tacked on a late insurance goal with Memphis Depay capping a well-worked counter with a simple finish from close range.
The result allows the Netherlands to face the runner-up from Group A, which is likely to be either Mexico or Croatia, in the round of 16.
Chile, meanwhile, finishes second in Group B to likely book a meeting with Brazil in the knockout round for the second consecutive World Cup, assuming the Brazilians finish atop Group A.
It was a comprehensive performance from the Netherlands on Monday as the European nation controlled much of the match.
The best scoring chance of the opening period came in the 35th minute when Robben delivered a dangerous free kick into the penalty area, but Stefan de Vrij failed to take advantage of the cross, sending his glancing header wide of goal.
Five minutes later, Robben had a glorious opportunity to give the Netherlands the lead when he made a weaving run through the Chilean defense, but the Bayern Munich man curled his shot just wide of the post.
The Dutch continued to apply pressure after the interval, and Depay, who entered the match as a second-half substitute, asked a big question of Claudio Bravo in the 76th minute when he put a shot on frame that forced the Chile goalkeeper to tip it over the net.
But the Netherlands made the most of the ensuing corner kick as Fer nodded Robben’s delivery past Bravo for his first international goal.
With both nations already assured spots in the knockout round, Chile eased off the pedal from that point on, which allowed the Netherlands the opportunity to tack on a late goal in stoppage time.
It came in typical Dutch fashion as Robben exploited Chile on the counter before squaring a pass to the back post for Depay to tuck home.
Spain 3, Australia 0
Curitiba, Brazil — Spain ended its World Cup campaign on a high note on Monday, cruising to a 3-0 defeat of Australia at the Arena da Baixada.
Successive defeats to open the World Cup meant that the reigning champions entered Monday’s affair with elimination already assured.
But La Roja managed to avoid an embarrassing last-place finish by getting a resounding win over the Socceroos.
David Villa started the match and repaid Del Bosque’s faith by opening the scoring in the 36th minute. The 32-year-old, who recently signed with New York City FC, got on the end of Juanfran’s square pass and flicked a shot behind his own leg and into the back of the net.
Spain continued to dominate the match on the opposite side of halftime, and it was Fernando Torres that doubled the nation’s advantage in the 69th minute when he took Andres Iniesta’s threaded pass and slipped a shot past Mathew Ryan.
The rout was complete eight minutes from time when Juan Mata took a pass from Cesc Fabregas and fired home his first World Cup goal.
Sunday’s Games Belgium 1, Russia 0
RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil — Divock Origi came off the bench to rescue three points for Belgium with a goal in the 88th minute, handing his side a 1-0 win over Russia at the Maracana on Sunday that puts Belgium into the knockout round.
The first 80 minutes of the match produced little in the way of offensive output for either side, but Origi gave the match its one moment of quality to hand Belgium its second win in as many games.
The Russians asked most of the questions after the break, yet they were unable to put a number of headers on target before a first-time shot from Andrey Eshchenko rolled narrowly wide of the far post.
However, Belgium came to life at the end of the game, and after Mirallas struck the post, Hazard popped up to set up the lone goal.
Algeria 4, South Korea 2
Algeria struck three times in a span of 12 first-half minutes on Sunday en route to a comfortable 4-2 destruction of South Korea at the Estadio Beira-Rio.
Islam Slimani opened the scoring for Algeria after 26 minutes and Rafik Halliche doubled the advantage two minutes later. Abdelmoumene Djabou then made it a three-goal margin for the Algerians in the 38th minute.
South Korea got back into the match five minutes into the second half through a goal from Bayer Leverkusen man Son Heung-Min, but 12 minutes later Yacine Brahimi restored Algeria’s three-goal cushion.