Anna-Lisa Paul and Bobie-Lee Dixon
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Samba sizzles in Brasilia
BRASILIA—Neymar lived up to the expectations of the World Cup host nation yesterday, scoring two goals as Brazil routed Cameroon 4-1 to reach the knockout stage as the top team in Group A.
Fred and Fernandinho added second-half goals for Brazil, which will face South American rival Chile in the second round.
Neymar netted twice in the first half, on either side of midfielder Joel Matip’s goal for Cameroon in the 26th minute.
He 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.”
Fred found the net in the 49th and the substitute Fernandinho struck in the 84th.
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. The Mexicans eliminated Croatia with a 3-1 win in Recife.
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.
Boosted by a crowd of nearly 69,112 at the Estadio Nacional in the nation’s capital, Brazil began the match pressuring Cameroon and created many scoring chances early. But the African team eventually picked up the pace and was able to keep the hosts from threatening too much.
Despite playing without Samuel Eto’o because of a lingering right knee injury, Cameroon had a few good chances, even when the match was level in the first half.
It was Neymar who got on the board first, neatly finding the net after Gustavo stole the ball on the left flank and sent a low cross into the area.
Cameroon equalised after a nice run by Allan Nyom ended with Matip’s goal, but Neymar again showed he is carrying the hopes of the entire nation, running toward the area and then moving to his right in front of a couple of defenders before firing a low shot into the net.
The 22-year-old Barcelona striker had already been decisive in the 3-1 opening win over Croatia, when he also scored twice while Brazil was struggling.
Brazil improved in the second half and Fred, who had been loudly criticized for his lackluster performances, got his first goal of the tournament with a header from close range after a cross by defender David Luiz from the left. Cameroon players complained of offsides.
Fernandinho, who replaced Paulinho in the second half, closed the scoring after Oscar stole possession from a Cameroon defender near the area. Quick passes by Fred and Oscar set up the midfielder’s toe poke from short range. (AP)
World Cup Glance
Cameroon 1 (Joel Matip 26) vs Brazil 4 (Neymar 17, 34, Fred 49, Fernandinho 84)
Croatia 1 (Ivan Perisic 87) vs Mexico 3 (Rafael Marquez 72, Andres Guardado 75, Javier Hernandez 82)
Australia 0 vs Spain 3 (David Villa 36, Fernando Torres 69, Juan Mata 82)
Netherlands 2 (Leroy Fer 77, Memphis Depay 90+1) vs Chile 0
How they finished
Brazil, Mexico, Netherlands, Chile into 16
Team P W D L F A Pts GD
Brazil 3 2 1 0 7 2 7 +5
Mexico 3 2 1 0 4 1 7 +3
Croatia 3 1 0 2 6 6 3 0
Cameroon 3 0 0 3 1 9 0 -8
Netherlands 3 3 0 0 10 3 9 +7
Chile 3 2 0 1 5 3 6 +2
Spain 3 1 0 2 4 7 3 -3
Australia 3 0 0 3 3 9 0 -6
Japan vs Colombia, Cuiaba, 4 pm
Juan Cuadrado (3) has now provided more assists at a single World Cup than any other Colombian player since 1966.
James Rodriguez has scored in each of his last four appearances for Colombia.
Japan have scored only one goal in their last three World Cup matches.
Greece vs Ivory Coast, Fortaleza, 4 pm
This will be the first ever meeting between Greece and Ivory Coast.
Greece’s previous World Cup games against African opposition were both against Nigeria, losing in 1994 (0-2) and winning in 2010 (2-1).
Greece have failed to score in seven of their eight World Cup games while their clean sheet last time out against Japan was their first ever at a World Cup.
The Ivorians have scored in seven of their eight World Cup games.
Italy vs Uruguay, Natal, noon
Italy have managed just two wins in nine previous attempts against Uruguay (incl. 1980 Copo d’Oro, D4 L3).
Uruguay last faced Italy in the 2013 Confederations Cup; they were beaten for the third place, by way of a penalty shootout.
Italy have lost only three of their 19 World Cup games against South American opposition - round 1 game against Chile in 1962, the 1970 final and the 1978 third place game against Brazil.
Uruguay have faced Italy twice in the World Cup; they failed to score in both matches (D1 L1).
England vs Costa Rica, Belo Horizonte, noon
Costa Rica have scored in all seven of their previous World Cup meetings with teams from Europe.
England have been eliminated at the first group stage of a World Cup for the first time since 1958.
England have conceded eight goals in their last three World Cup games, as many as the previous 14 games combined.
Honduras vs Switzerland, Manaus, 4 pm
Ecuador vs France, Rio de Janeiro, 4 pm
Nigeria vs Argentina, Porto Alegre, noon
Iran vs Bosnia, Salvador, noon