Netherlands' Memphis Depay

Netherlands' Memphis Depay

World Cup picture becomes clearer

Brazil relied on its star Neymar for two early goals to beat Cameroon 4-1 Monday and reach the World Cup’s knockout stage for a South American showdown against Chile, a 2-0 loser to the Netherlands. Winning its Group B with its third straight victory made sure that the Dutch avoided the host so early in the tournament. Instead, the Netherlands will face Mexico, which beat Croatia 3-1 to advance alongside Brazil from Group A.

RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil — Brazil relied on its star Neymar for two early goals to beat Cameroon 4-1 Monday and reach the World Cup’s knockout stage for a South American showdown against Chile, a 2-0 loser to the Netherlands.

Winning its Group B with its third straight victory made sure that the Dutch avoided the host so early in the tournament. Instead, the Netherlands will face Mexico, which beat Croatia 3-1 to advance alongside Brazil from Group A.

Spain beat Australia 3-0 in an inconsequential game between already eliminated teams, a victory providing a little balm on the disappointing defence of its title.

With free-flowing games and buckets full of goals the rule in this outstanding tournament, it took until the final minutes of the Group A games for Brazil to make sure it advanced as group leader on goal difference over Mexico.

Both finished with seven points, with Croatia eliminated with three points, while Cameroon finished with three losses. Brazil finished first because it had a better goal differential than Mexico, plus 5 to plus 3.

The Netherlands was the first perfect team to advance, finishing ahead of Chile in Group B. Spain had three points with Monday’s win, and Australia had three losses.

Beyond the statistics, it again was Neymar who fully lived up to expectations of the 200 million football fans in Brazil with flair and lethal finishing, making the difference with first-half strikes against an African opponent that fought hard for one half before succumbing.

Neymar used array of spin moves and delicate touches to get by players, delighting the crowd in Brasilia — including Britain’s Prince Harry.

Neymar has four goals from three games to lead the top scorer’s standings, edging a group of five players with three goals.

Much like the opener, Neymar carried the weight for his team, scoring the first with a subtle inside-foot flick while adding a second with a darting run before wrong-footing the Cameroon goalie with a right-foot drive.

The oft-criticized Fred may have kept himself in the starting lineup with a header just after halftime. Substitute Fernandinho closed out the scoring for Brazil.

With everything to play for, Mexico came through with three goals in a 10-minute spurt of excitement late in the game against Croatia.

So often in this tournament, goals deep in the second half have made the difference, and Monday was no exception.

The Dutch scored twice in the last 13 minutes against Chile to finish the group stage with three straight wins. Quite a turnaround for a team thought to be on the wane with aging stars like Arjen Robben.

Yet the Dutch have scored 10 goals in three victories. Now, only the foolhardy would relish the prospect of facing the orange-clad team.

“We wanted to be first in the group. Now we will see what is coming at us,” said Robben, who added an assist against Chile to the three goals he scored in earlier games.

Leroy Fer scored a minute after going on as a substitute to get the Netherlands ahead in the 77th minute. Then, when some other players had already gone down with cramps, Robben launched into another of his trademark sprints across the pitch and passed perfectly to Memphis Depay for the tap-in that put the game away.

While Robben is going strong after hitting his thirties, age caught up with the Spanish stars this tournament, particularly in their 5-1 opening loss to the Netherlands.

They regained a little pride Monday. In a game of goodbyes, David Villa marked his final appearance for Spain with a record 59th goal for the national team.

Fernando Torres, who set off Spain’s rise by scoring the winner in the 2008 European championship final, also scored. Juan Mata added the third.

Spain also won the 2010 World Cup and repeated as European champs in 2012.

At least Spain avoided finishing last in its group.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Alberta recorded a single-day record of over 57,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine administered. (Photo courtesy Alberta Health Services Twitter)
Alberta hits daily record of COVID-19 vaccine doses administered

Central zone has administered 111,735 doses of the COVID-19

Alberta reported an additional 1,980 cases of COVID-19 Friday. (NIAID-RML via AP)
Red Deer adds 37th death from COVID-19, active cases drop

Alberta Health identified an additional 1,980 cases of the virus province-wide

Kris Sturgess with Calgary Ghostbusters. (Photo from GoFundMe)
GoFundMe account salutes Red Deer prop builder

Kris Sturgess died unexpectedly April 28

A rodeo south of Bowden drew a huge crowd on May 1 and 2, 2021. (Photo courtesy Mom’s Diner’s Facebook page)
FILE - A firefighter wears a mask as he drives his truck. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward, File
VIDEO: Flames rip through Edmonton-area seniors complex, but no fatalities

ST. ALBERT, Alta. — Fire has destroyed part of a retirement complex… Continue reading

Toronto FC coach Chris Armas talks with his players during a CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal second leg soccer match against Mexico's Cruz Azul at Azteca stadium in Mexico City, Tuesday, May 4, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Fernando Llano
Toronto FC coach Chris Armas returns to Red Bull Arena to face former team

Toronto FC coach Chris Armas returns to Red Bull Arena to face former team

Gymnastics Canada skipping Olympic qualifier because of COVID-19 concerns

Gymnastics Canada skipping Olympic qualifier because of COVID-19 concerns

Runner Melissa Bishop-Nriagu speaks to the media at the opening news conference at the Canadian Track and Field Championships, in Montreal, Thursday, July 25, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
After pregnancy, injuries and a pandemic, Bishop-Nriagu finally hitting her stride

After pregnancy, injuries and a pandemic, Bishop-Nriagu finally hitting her stride

Lille's Burak Yilmaz, center, reacts with teammates after scoring during their French League One soccer match between Lille and Nice in Villeneuve d'Ascq, northern France, Saturday May 1, 2021. (AP Photo/Michel Spingler)
Canada’s Jonathan David scores milestone goal as Lille moves 4 points ahead of PSG

Canada’s Jonathan David scores milestone goal as Lille moves 4 points ahead of PSG

Jean Carlo Salas of Costa Rica vies for the ball with Canada's Ian Bennett (right) during a CONCACAF Futsal Championship in Guatemala City, Guatemala, Wednesday, May 5, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-CONCACAF-Norvin Mendoza MANDATORY CREDIT
Canada denied a trip to the FIFA Futsal World Cup in penalty shootout loss to Panama

Canada denied a trip to the FIFA Futsal World Cup in penalty shootout loss to Panama

Canadian Stephen Ames one shot back of leaders at Regions Tradition

Canadian Stephen Ames one shot back of leaders at Regions Tradition

Team Canada skip Kerri Einarson leaves the ice after defeating China at the Women's World Curling Championship in Calgary, Alta., Friday, May 7, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Canada’s Einarson beats China 6-4, qualifies for playoffs at world curling playdowns

Canada’s Einarson beats China 6-4, qualifies for playoffs at world curling playdowns

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau walks to a news conference in Ottawa on Tuesday May 4, 2021. A broad coalition of MPs from all five parties wants the federal government to support waiving the global rules that guard vaccine trade secrets. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
As MPs urge support, Trudeau demurs on whether government backs COVID-19 waiver

As MPs urge support, Trudeau demurs on whether government backs COVID-19 waiver

Most Read