Wednesday, January 17, 2018
Sports

Mexico, Brazil clinch spots in World Cup Round of 16

RECIFE, Brazil — One of the first things Miguel Herrera did when he became Mexico's fourth coach in a year was call Rafael Marquez and ask the 35-year-old defender called "the boss" to return to the team as captain.

Monday, the world saw why.

Marquez's goal from a header in the 72nd minute ignited a scoring burst, and Mexico made the World Cup's knockout stage for a sixth straight time with a 3-1 triumph over Croatia.

"I did not hesitate one minute after my talk with him to appoint him captain," Herrera said of Marquez, in his fourth World Cup. "He's had many achievements in his career, personally, but he's also provided leadership to the team, that soundness, and that is why they call him the boss."

Marquez, Andres Guardado and Manchester United's Javier "Chicharito" Hernandez scored in a 10-minute span in the second half, eliminating Croatia, which had to win to advance.

Mexican goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa kept out all efforts until an 87th-minute consolation goal from Ivan Perisic.

Mexico finished second in Group A and set up a second-round meeting with Group B winner Netherlands.

"Mexico was equal in the first half. We tried to (attack) and left spaces in the second half," Croatia defender Danijel Pranjic said. "They scored on set plays and Marquez killed us."

Brazil 4, Cameroon 1: Neymar knew the responsibility was his. An increasingly anxious host nation was relying on him.

The 22-year-old Barcelona striker delivered in Brasilia with two precision first-half goals.

"I have the responsibility to go out there and help my teammates," said Neymar, the World Cup's leading scorer with four goals. "We all did well today and got the result that we needed."

He had already been decisive in the 3-1 opening win over Croatia, when he also scored twice to lift a struggling Brazil.

Fred and Fernandinho added second-half goals to ensure first in Group A — the ninth straight World Cup in which Brazil has won its group — and set up a meeting with Chile in the Round of 16. Cameroon put a scare into the tournament favorite with Joel Matip's goal in the 26th minute, but Neymar's second goal came eight minutes later.

Netherlands 2, Chile 0: Substitutes Leroy Fer and Memphis Depay scored in the second half to win the game and the group for the Dutch in Sao Paulo. "It is luck," Netherlands coach Louis van Gaal said about his super substitutions. "Just luck." Both teams came in having clinched spots in the Round of 16.

Spain 3, Australia 0: The defending world champions went out with a strong display in Curitiba. David Villa, in his 97th and final international appearance, put Spain ahead in the 36th minute with his record 59th goal. "It's sad because we would have liked to have spent more time here, but that's how it is," said Villa, who had announced his retirement from the national team.

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