After the excitement, and ultimately for American fans, the disappointment of last night’s draw between the U.S. and Portugal, it was on to the final games in Group A and B, with all group games being played at the same time.
The Netherlands took some time to get untracked before finally scoring two late goals to defeat Chile 2-0 to win Group B, setting up a round of 16 matchup with Mexico this Sunday at noon.
The other Group B game featured Spain and Australia, with Spain taking a 3-0 victory. Spain, the defending World Cup and Euro Champions, were the biggest disappointment of this tournament, becoming the first defending champion to be eliminated after just two first round matches under the current format.
Spain got goals today from David Villa, New York City FC’s first signing, Fernando Torres and Juan Mata. Villa and Mata were seeing their first action while Torres had been used as a substitute in those two losses.
Australia were playing without their leader Tim Cahill, whose international career ended in the stands with the New York Red Bull star sitting out for yellow card accumulation. The Socceroos leave the tournament having lost all three of their matches, although the team earned a measure of respect with their performances, particularly in Thursday’s 3-2 loss to the Netherlands.
Hosts Brazil opened the scoring against an already eliminated Cameroon team with a 17th minute goal from their rising young star Neymar. Cameroon figured to be easy pickings for a Brazil side looking to secure the top spot in Group A, but 26 minutes into the game the Indomitable Lions briefly put a scare in the home team.
Joel Matip scored for Cameroon to briefly tie the game, but Neymar was soon at it again, scoring the fourth goal of his World Cup career in the 34th minute. Those four Neymar goals have come in just three games.
Fred and Fernandinho added second half goals to head into the Round of 16 in style, and sending Cameroon home to lick their rooms with three losses from three games.
Mexico broke open their game with Croatia with a three goal outburst started by none other than 35 year old center back Rafael Marquez, going on to win the game 3-1.
With the teams still deadlocked at 0-0 Mexico looked like they had been victimized by the referee when they were denied an obvious penalty for a handball.
El Tri did go ahead moments later when Javier Hernandez won a corner, and Marquez rose highest to bang home the header to give Mexico a 1-0 lead. Andreas Guardado added a second goal just four minutes later, and needing just a draw to advance, Mexico were looking good.
Hernandez, Mexico’s biggest star who has been relegated to the subs bench in this World Cup, finally had his moment, scoring in the 82nd minute.
Only a win would keep Croatia alive in the Cup, and when Hernandez put Mexico up 3-0, Croatia were on the verge of elimination.
Ivan Perisic ended Mexico’s shutout in the 87th minute, with Guillermo Ochoa and his defense coming within three minutes of pitching a shutout all the way through the group stage.
Croatia’s young midfielder Ante Rebic lost his cool in the 89th minute, putting a capper a miserable day for the Croatians.
Next up for Mexico are the Netherlands Saturday at 12 noon. For finishing second in Group B Chile will play Brazil on Sunday, also at noon.