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World Cup Round Up: Match Day 12

Time for the business end of the groups!

Laurence Griffiths

So, we're now at the point where the glorious 11pm kick offs are no more, and what a way to finish them eh? It was a brilliant game between the US and Portugal, one that had me genuinely gutted at the end too.

But now we're at the business end of the group stages: four games a day, two at five, two at nine. So with out further a do...

The first set of games today took place in Group B, with the Netherlands facing Chile to determine who'd win the group, and Spain v Australia, giving both teams an opportunity to bow it in style.

I opted to watch the game that meant something, naturally, and to be honest, it was a bit of an anti-climax. I was kind of hoping for an exciting game between the two undefeated teams in the group. But a combination of players being rested/suspended and the teams clearly not wanting to go all out and risk injury, we got a bit of a dead rubber.

Player of the tournament thus far, Arjen Robben, nearly had his own 'Maradona' moment, 28 years on since that famous goal: picking up the ball in his own half, after a well timed tackle by Sneijder, shaking off one challenge, running the length of the half with that pace we know so well, before selling three defenders with a quick shimmy and going inches wide of the upright.

Chile were having the better of the possession however, and can feel aggrieved that many challenges on their players, especially when Jasper Killisen, clattered into Alexis Sanchez in the area, went unpunished.

Robben then had another effort on goal, a quick change of direction getting him away from Chilean challengers, before he forced Claudio Bravo into a smart save.

As I said, this game was a bit of a stinker with not much happening at all, but thankfully, the dead lock was broken with 13 minutes to go.

Daryl Janmaat, swung a cross in to the area, which was met by the completely unmarked Leroy Fer, who did excellently well to direct his powerful headed into the bottom corner, with his first touch after coming on off the bench. Relegation with Norwich to scoring in the World Cup, Fer play.

Netherlands would add a second goal in added time, when they exploited a stretched Chile, that were pressing for an equaliser. Nigel de Jong, passed the ball forward with pace towards Robben, who was obviously able to catch the ball, he ran to the byline before squaring it to Memphis Depay, who tapped it in.

So that means maximum points for the Dutch, who Finnish top of their group with nine points and will play Mexico, in the next round. Chile finish a deserved runners up and will face Brazil in the last 16, a tie which I really think they have a chance in, especially if Brazil start the game in the same pace with which they've started the others so far.

Full Time: Netherlands 2-0 Chile

77- Fer

90 - Depay

Spain avoided further embarrassment by defeating a spirited Australia side 3-0, as the reigning champions left with a bit of pride still intact.

David Villa started in what would be his last game for Spain, and he was involved from the offset; firstly blazing wide of the goal with a volley, after Iniesta had teed him up, then he showed his brilliant skill and awareness to play Jordi Alba in with a back heel, but the left back could only hit his shot straight at Matt Ryan, in the Australia goal; the Spanish and football legend would then go on to beat his marker, before lashing a cross in front of the face of goal, which was just lacking a finishing touch.

Then, to the joy of my heart, Villa got himself on the score sheet, in typical Villa fashion. Iniesta, played a beautiful pass into the path of Atléti right back Juanfran, he took his time to pick out his ball and spotted Villa, who flicked the pass majestically into the net. A fitting end to the international career of Spain's best ever striker, who left the pitch in tears, after scoring 59 goals in 97 appearances. It's just a shame we didn't see more of his this tournament.

Australia applied pressure of their own going in to the second half, with Matt McKay volleying over the bar, after Spain failed to clear a corner.

It was two for Spain not long after though, Iniesta playing another delightful ball for Fernando Torres, who took a touch then slotted into the bottom corner.

A third was added with less than ten minutes to go, Juan Mata latched onto Cesc Fabregas' lobbed ball, took a touch, and put the ball through Ryan's legs, reminiscent of the Spain of two years prior.

So Australia leave us after having fought hard, but getting nothing for their valiant efforts, but I'm sure we'll be seeing them again four years from now. Spain sign off at least with a few smiles on faces, but I imagine big changes will be happening between now and Euro 2016.

Full Time: Australia 0-3 Spain

36 - Villa

69 - Torres

82- Mata

MOTM: David Villa

The second round of games would decide the final outcome of Group A. I again opted for the match that meant more, going for Croatia v Mexico, and for a long, long time, it looked as if I'd made the incorrect decision again.

A win would have put either team through to the last 16, but it was Mexico who came closest early on, with Hector Herrera hitting the cross bar from distance.

A first half with little action to speak of, due to Mexico sitting deep and not allowing Croatia to play their game, then a good chance fall Parelta's way. The Mexican striker was found in the area by Herrera, but he could only slice his shot wide.

As the game grew older, Mexico started applying more pressure to Croatia, coming at them with quick passing and movement, and they should have had a penalty well into the second half, when Darjio Srna, blocked Andres Guardado's shot with his arms.

The resulting corner then nearly sneaked straight into the net, but Verdan Corluka was on hand to head clear of the line.

Mexico didn't have to wait too long after that disappoint to finally score though. On the 72nd minute, another corner was thrown into the box for Mexico, and captain-fantastic Rafa Marques, got the run on his marker to head through the grasping hands of Pletikosa, in the Croatia goal.

Only three minutes later and Mexico were two to the good. Peralta's cross was met first time by Guardado, who rifled the ball into the roof of the net, much to the sheer lunacy of the best fella at the World Cup, Miguel Herrera.

Croatia then went close to adding a consolation goal, with their first effort of note in the game: 20 year Ante Rebic, embarked on a mazey run into the box, and his finish was destined for the bottom corner. But alas, it wasn't powerful enough and Moreno, managed to get back to slice it clear off the line.

Any hope Croatia still had left was completely extinguished with eight minutes to go, with Javier Hernandez strolling past two Croatian defenders and nodding in Marquez' flick on, for the third.

Croatia didn't lie down and accept defeat however, adding a late consolation goal for themselves when Peresic latched on to Rakitic's clever flick, and fired past Ochoa from a tight angle.

There was slight stain on the game, when into added time Rebic, was shown a red card for implanting his studs onto Pena's shin. But it did little to deter the Mexicans from celebrating a victory and their place in the second round, where they'll encounter the Netherlands.

Full Time: Croatia 1-3 Mexico

87 - Peresic  72 - Marquez

75 - Guardado

82 - Hernandez

MOTM: Rafael Marquez

At the same time, down in Brasilia, Brazil were facing Cameroon, hoping to solidify their number one spot in the group.

They got off to a great start when Luis Gustavo, won possession down the left and crossed the ball for Neymar, who did fantastically well to divert the ball into the bottom corner, for the 100th goal of the competition.

Despite the good start, Brazil weren't playing at their best; being lethargic in possession, having Fred up front and being lost in defence.

The unmarked Joel Matip hit the cross-bar via Thiago Silva, onto the cross bar, and less than a minute later, he'd equalised for Cameroon. Dani Alves was pathetically weak in allowing Nyom to get path him, Nyom then smashed the ball across the face of goal and Matip, who was again left completely unmarked, tapped the ball in.

Brazil weren't level for too long however, as Neymar again stepped up to the plate for his country to put them back in front. He received the ball from Marcelo, after a poor clearance, then raced up the field, cut inside and fired past Itandje.

A wonderful team move from Brazil, made especially easy on the eye by Neymar's tricks, would have gone down as one go the goals of the tournament, had Hulk not fluffed his lines and shoot over.

Fernandinho replaced Paulinho at half time, and Brazil were instantly better as result, due to the Manchester City midfielder's ability going forward, as well as going back.

Fred forced an energetic save out of Itandje, as he let fire from out side the box. Neymar, would then go on to test the Cameroonian 'keeper, with a dipping free kick that had to be pushed wide.

Fernandinho did well to retain possession then lay off Marcelo, who drove a cross into the box, which was met by Fred who finally managed to get on the score sheet after a putrid campaign.

Brazil were a lot more comfortable at this point and were able to take the rest of the half easy, but with six minutes to go Fernandinho added a goal to his match changing display. A clever triangle of passes between Fred, Oscar and Fernandinho, resulted in the latter powering past a Cameroonian defender and poking the ball into the goal.

A 4-1 victory for Brazil, one which sets up a delicious tie with Chile in the next round.

Full Time: Cameroon 1-4 Brazil

26 - Matip   17- Neymar

34 - Neymar

49 - Fred

84 - Fernandinho

MOTM: Fernandinho