FINAL: Brazil 4, Cameroon 1
Brazil finally looked like a World Cup contender on Monday, displaying all the flair soccer fans associate with the Selecao. Neymar scored two first-half goals, and Brazil tacked on two more to beat Cameroon 4-1, winning Group A over Mexico by virtue of goal differential.
Each nation finished group play with seven points, but Brazil was plus-5 while Mexico was plus-3, following its 3-1 victory over Croatia.
Brazil will play Chile in the next round while Mexico faces Group B winner Netherlands.
Neymar set the tone when he scored just moments after being shoved to the ground 16 minutes into the first half. Allan Nyom inexplicably pushed the Brazilian star in the back and it seemingly lit a fire under Neymar. He one-touched a cross from Luiz Gustazo into the back of the net, and then waved the Brazilian crowd to its feet.
Defender Joel Matip provided the quick scoring response for Cameroon, but that was the only tally it would see in Brasilia on Monday. Neymar tacked on another in the 35th minute, to stake Brazil to a 2-1 lead and give him the edge in the race for the Golden Boot. Through three games, Neymar has four goals.
Both Fred and Fernandinho scored in the second half to help distance the Brazilians from Mexico, which scored three second half goals against Croatia.
It was finally the sort of performance Brazilians fans had expected from their side as Neymar, David Luiz and Gustavo all showed off their improvisational skills. Heel flicks and tricky footwork were the norm for the second half, much to the crowd's delight.
94' -- Seconds left and Brazil is just playing keep away. They've likely been aware of the Group A scenarios.
92' -- Broadcast notes that Brazil is about to win its group for the ninth-straight time and advance from the group for the 12th-straight time.
90' -- Four minutes of added time.
GROUP A UPDATE: Mexico now up 3-1 over Croatia, and Brazil has even more breathing room. Not much time left for either result to change, although goals have been coming at a furious pace.
87' -- That last goal *likely* gives Brazil first place in Group A, meaning a date with Chile in the Round of 16.
Oscar creates quick turnover, touches it to Fernandinho, who pokes it in. Cameroon way too casual in the back.
84' -- GOAL!!!! FERNANDINHO TOES IT IN FOR BRAZIL!! Gives Brazil a bit of breathing room now.
GROUP A UPDATE: Mexico now up 3-0 over Croatia meaning that Mexico is tied with Brazil on goal differential. Next tie-breaker is goals for, so Brazil still leading, tenuously.
SUB: Choupo-Moting out, Makoun in.
82' -- Gustavo walking off gingerly, but there are no more subs for the midfielder.
80' -- Mbia takes down Luiz Gustavo in transition and earns a yellow. Brazil needs to hold this lead, but can't afford an injury.
78' -- Good work from Luiz, Oscar in the back to sweep away any danger from Cameroon. Haven't been many chances for underdog this half.
GROUP A UPDATE: It's now 2-0, Mexico over Croatia. Brazil still winning on goal differential over Mexico, 4-3.
GROUP A UPDATE: Mexico is up 1-0 over Croatia, meaning that if results hold, Brazil and Mexico advance. Brazil wins group on goal differential.
72' -- SUB: Aboubakar out up top, Webo in for Cameroon.
70' -- Neymar down after he gets tackled from behind and glides into another Cameroon defender. He's up and walking. Breathe easy, Brazil. And now he gets subbed out for Willian. What a day from him. Two goals, but more importantly, gave Brazil the lead when it was tight.
67' -- Ramires tries to play Neymar into space in front of the goal, but he's called for offsides.
It's not time yet, but eventually Luiz Felipe Scolari will want to sub out his stars, Neymar and Oscar.
64' -- SUB: Hulk coming off, Ramires on as attacking midfielder.
63' -- Luis Gustavo loses ball in the back but Cesar bursts from his line to clear the danger. Almost an awful blunder there.
60' -- Neymar corrals a lofted ball, tries some trickery past Nyom, but nothing doing. Neymar wants that third.
If results hold, Brazil would win Group A. Mexico (four points) currently deadlocked in 0-0 tie with Croatia.
58' -- Moukandko out, Salli in at midfield.
57' -- Hulk and Neymar had two-v-one, but Hulk selfishly holds onto it and can't get a shot off. Neymar tosses his arms up in exasperation. Could've had a hat trick.
Fred's goal is his first of the World Cup:
Upon watching replays, Fred was probably offsides. Refs didn't see it.
49' -- GOALL!!!! David Luiz with a lovely cross from the left side to Fred, who drills it in with his head. Confidence-building goal for Fred. Rout. Is. On.
48' -- Brazil with seven shots inside the box. Cameroon wih two.
47' -- Wow. Hulk taken down in the box, no penalty. Fred follows that up with a rip from a yard outside the 18, but Itandje blocks it with diving save. Brazil in full attack mode, here.
46' -- Second half is underway. My prediction? I bet Neymar gets a third.
SUB: Paulinho, Fernandinho in.
Joga bonito, Brazil:
Brazil has everything to play for while Cameroon is going home following the next 45 minutes, but that didn't stop both teams from performing in a wildly entertaining first half.
Moments after getting needlessly shoved to the ground by Nyom, Neymar finished a perfect cross from Luiz Gustavo in the 16th minute. Lesson learned. Don't tread on Neymar.
Cameroon didn't stop its attack, peppering Julio Cesar with set piece headers and dangerous crosses. It finally tallied one as defender Joel Matip found himself wide open in front of the goal. Neymar responded just 10 minutes later, as he carried the ball into the box and rifled off a low laser to the center of the net. He has four goals this tournament, which leads all scorers.
If Brazil maintains the lead (or draws), it will advance.
45' -- Hulk misses a chance from the six with his left foot but the buildup was vintage Brazil. Clever touches, cheeky flicks. Essentially globetrotter soccer. Will find video, don't you worry.
44' -- Free kick coming for Cameroon about 10 yards deep of the box. Moukandojo over the ball. Ball bounces around in the box for a bit before fullback's clear it out. Cameroon not backing down though.
43' -- Huge tackle (clean, too) on Thiago Silva against Moukandjo along the right flank. Draws loud cheers for his hustle.
Neymar's second tally. Now leads the World Cup with four goals.
36' -- Starting to think this Neymar Jr. character has a future.
Neymar is a point-blank save away from having a hat trick this first half.
35' -- NEYMAR WITH ANOTHER!!! Buries it off another Cameroon turnover, cuts right towards the middle, and blasts it with his right foot to the center of the goal.
Starting to get a sense that Brazil's defenders are extremely tight in contrast to Cameroon's strikers, who have nothing to lose. Brazil can advance with a draw, but it doesn't look confident at the moment.
32' -- Corner coming from Moukandjo after some good work against Marcelo at the right back.
Cameroon's equalizer at the 25' mark:
Neymar scored moments after this shove from Nyom. Lesson (hopefully) learned.
25' -- GOAL!!!! Cameroon!!! Joel Matip buries it off a cross from Nyom. Awful defending from Brazilian backline.
25' -- Enoh smacks one from outside the box and Thiago Silva nearly scores an own goal after spinning deflection goes backwards. Subsequent corner gets headed off the woodwork and Cameroon is pressing.
23' -- Hulk with a dangerous cross in front of the goalmouth. There could easily be three goals thus far for Brazil.
20' -- Neymar nearly follows up his first goal with another but Itandje stuffs him. This has all the makings of a rout.
Neymar's goal --
16' -- GOAL!!!! NEYMAR!! Not one minute after the shoving incident, Neymar one-touches a perfect pass into the right side of the goal. It's Neymar's third tally of the World Cup.
15' -- And Nyom shoves Neymar in the back as he was chasing the ball out of bounds. No reason for it at all. Neymar almost flies into the photographers. Nyom tries to apologize but Neymar isn't having any of it.
13' -- Have to say that Cameroon, by no means, look overwhelmed. David Luiz deflects a dangerous centering pass from Choupo-Moting. Second chance in as many sequences for the Indominatable Lions.
11' -- Enoh draws a yellow after he takes down Marcelo in the back. Little bit too eager from the midfielder as Marcelo had the step out of the back.
9' -- Marcelo blocks a great chance from Cameroon in the box and we've got a corner coming. Probably a goal if not blocked.
8' -- Broadcast notes that Cameroon has won just one of last 14 World Cup matches (2002). Really is the perfect set up for Brazil as it tries to finally get its offense in order ... in front of its home crowd ... in the nation's capital.
5' -- Hulk and Fred very active early on and just a step away from one or two shots on goal. Good tackle from Bedimo, corner coming.
2' -- Brazil misses an incredible early chance as shot deflects off Cameroon defender just in front of box. All Brazil early.
1' -- We're off from Brasilia. Hulk draws an early foul along the right side and it's essentially a very, very short corner.
PREGAME: Quick run-down of the scenarios in play with concurrent Mexico-Croatia match. If Brazil beats or draws Cameroon, it advances to knockout stages. If it wins and maintains superior goal differential over Mexico (currently +1), it wins Group A. Brazil will be eliminated with a loss and a Croatia-Mexico draw by virtue of goal differential.
Brazil starters: Cesar, Alves, Silva, Luiz, Marcelo, Hulk, Paulinho, Fred, Neymar, Oscar, Luiz Gustavo
Cameroon starters: Itandje, Nkoulou, Nguemo, Moukandjo, Aboubakar, Bedimo, Chopo Moting, Mbia, Enoh, Matip, Nyom
Brazil vs. Cameroon (Group A) | Kickoff: 6/23, 4 p.m. ET | Stadium: Mane Garrincha, Brasilia
Match Preview: Host nation Brazil enters its final group match against Cameroon with four points but still without assurances that it's cleanly into the next round. Brazil must win or draw to ensure it advances. A loss makes the scenario extremely dicey as Mexico (four points) faces off against Croatia (three points) in the other Group A match. Fortunately, the Selecao have its easiest game of the group stages tomorrow and should be able to soundly dispatch Cameroon.
The Lions' defense has looked extremely shaky as evident by its -5 goal differential (four of which came against Croatia). In fact, it would've been even more egregious had the referees not mistakenly taken away two goals when Mexico faced Cameroon in the opening match. Cameroon doesn't have anything left to play for, but that's sometimes a recipe to play without fear or pressure.
For Brazil, Monday's opponent offers it a chance to finally dazzle its fans and get its offense in order. It was shut out by Mexico in a 0-0 draw, and hardly looked like a World Cup contender against Croatia.
"We know the match will be very difficult because our rival will be playing without any pressure on them," defender Dani Alves said. "They can't advance, but they will be playing aginst Brazil, in Brazil, in the World Cup."
Neymar has been the lone star on Brazil, but on Monday Luiz Felipe Scolari's squad can also count on Hulk (leg), who wasn't entirely healthy against Mexico. Cameroon won't have Alex Song (red card) and Samuel Eto'o's health may be in doubt. There may also still be consequences from when Benoit Assou-Ekotto head-butted his teammate, Benjamin Moukanjo, late in Cameroon's last match.
Brazil has put itself in position to advance without much resistance, but hardly anything has gone according to plan this World Cup.