Sunday, in Brasilia, Brazil, the World Cup hosts defeated Cameroon by 4-1 in the co-final Group A match. The win means Brazil will play Chile in the Round of 16 and Mexico, who beat Croatia 3-1 will meet the Netherlands.
The match was a Neymar showcase as the Brazilian star was in great form and spirit and put the hosts ahead at the 17th minute with a wonderful flick of his gifted right foot off a great cross. The Brazilian team started out strong and controlled the action for the first fifteen minutes before Cameroon got into the game, but by the time they did Neymar had scored.
But this was a combative Cameroon today one that wanted to leave the cup with something to show for its trouble. While the game was going on in Brasilia the Croatia-Mexico match was being played simultaneously in Recife and a four goal win for the CONCACAF team would mean Brazil would progress to a showdown with Holland.
The Cameroonians pulled one back at the 26th minute when Joel Matip tapped in from close range when a close in cross beat all comers but the African defender.
But this was Neymar’s day, and he was quick to respond. At the 34th minute he dribbled at full gallop toward goal, from his favored left wing position to the right and straight at goal. His normal move is to draw the defender then open space to the right and curl a shot to the top or lower right of the goal. Cameroon’s defender kept pace with the Brazilian striker intent on stopping the known move. Cameroon’s goalkeeper, Charles Itandje, also thought he knew what was coming and shifted his stance and body weight to his left to protect the right side of the goal as Neymar approached at full gallop.
But the striker looked up and saw his opening lay to the left if he could shoot on the run and avoid the lunging defender’s blocking attempt. Neymar struck the ball with a crisp cutting motion putting it between his marker’s legs and freezing Itandje in his stance. The ball went in behind the keeper as he leaned the wrong way. Golazo!
This was the deciding moment. Even though Cameroon played gamely and attacked well and had a few chances, the wind was knocked out of their sails by the quick Brazilian response to the African’s score and by the quality of the goal. The half would end with the 2-1 score line but Neymar and company were not done.
In the second half Fred got his goal at the 49th minute and with the score 3-1 and the game seemingly out of reach the teams fell into a back and forth that nevertheless communicated to each other that the past could be repeated. The final insurance score seemed to come as the Brazilians heard of Mexico’s drubbing of Croatia. At the 86th minute, second half substitute Fernandinho put the ball in the back of the net. The thing was, it was the Brazilian’s best offensive move of the evening, a statement if ever there was one.
This Brazilian team is not yet there, they are winning as Argentina is, with the inspirational play of their star. Take Neymar out and you have a Brazil that would have drawn two games and barely won one. If he should be neutralized again, as he was against Mexico, a stronger team could take advantage of the Brazilian’s lack of creativity or offense. As it is Chile will be the next opponent and they have a great offense. It might be that next match it is the likes of Thiago Silva and David Luis who star as much as the co-top scorer of the tournament.