[BRAZIL 2014] Mexico moved into the round of 16 for the sixth straight time with an impressive 3-1 win over Croatia. Dutch subs Leroy Ferand Memphis Depay shared the spotlight with Brazil's Neymarand MLS-bound David Villa, who finished his Spanish career with a nifty goal on a backheel.
MEXICO.El Tri barely survived Concacaf qualifying, but since then it's been smooth sailing. Easy wins over New Zealand in the intercontinental playoffs. And now an unbeaten run at the group stage capped by an impressive 3-1 win over Croatia to move into the round of 16 for the sixth straight time. Now comes the big test. El Tri lost in the first game of the knockout stage in its last five appearances, and it must face the Netherlands, one of the hottest teams at the World Cup.
MIGUEL HERRERA.The Pete Rose-lookalike has become of the star of the World Cup with sideline celebrations. After Mexico's second goal against Croatia, he rolled on the ground with defender Paul Aguilar and grabbed goalie Guillermo Ochoa with a bear hug. And these were players in the game. Following the game, ESPN studio host Mike Tirico said Herrera might "give the best cutaways of any coach in any sport, ever." He can also coach a little.
CONCACAF.Mexico's win improved the record of the four Concacaf teams at the World Cup to 5-2-2. Three are unbeaten: Mexico, Costa Rica and USA. Two are already through to the next round: Mexico and Costa Rica. Mexico has a history of thumbing its noses at Concacaf, but even El Tri is coming around. After the win over Croatia, Javier "Chicharito" Hernandez gave Concacaf some love, telling ESPN, “The thing is, all the people think that Concacaf is easy. And you see first of the group to Costa Rica [and] United States almost getting through. Honduras, I know it’s a little bit harder in getting through, [but] Concacaf is there.”
NEYMAR.Some of Brazil's big stars have been struggling at the World Cup, but one player who has shown up is Neymar. He scored two goals to help Brazil put away Cameroon, which had played the hosts tight in the first half. The 4-1 win gave Brazil the group title, and the two goals gave him the lead in the World Cup scoring race.
G PLAYER, TEAM
4 Neymar, Brazil
3 Karim Benzema, France
3 Thomas Mueller, Germany
3 Arjen Robben, Netherlands
3 Enner Valencia, Ecuador
3 Robin van Persie, Netherlands
SUBS.Subs continue to play huge roles at the World Cup. Late goals by Leroy Ferand Memphis Depay gave the Netherlands a 2-0 victory over Chile on Monday that clinched first place in Group B with three wins in three games. Subs Dries Mertens and Divock Origi have scoring the winning goals in the two Belgium victories. John Brooks was the unlikely hero off the bench in the USA's win over Ghana. Goals by subs Miroslav Klose and Silvestre Varela had the tying goals for Germany and Portugal on a wild weekend of play in Group G.
DAVID VILLA. Villa, who will play for MLS's New York City FC in 2015, scored his record 59th goal in his 97th and final appearance for Spain as the defending champions beat Australia, 3-0. It might not win the award for the best goal of the World Cup, but it is surely the cheekiest, a nifty backheel in Spain's 3-0 win over Australia, where he'll play on loan until the 2015 MLS season.
CAMEROON.The Indomitable Lions made their reputation at the 1990 World Cup when they beat defending champion Argentina in the opener (with nine players), became the first African team to advance out of the group stage and reached the quarterfinals, where they lost in overtime to England after leading late in the game. Since then? Cameroon's three-and-out exit marked the sixth straight time it has failed to advance and second straight tournament in which it was swept. It has one win in 18 games.
ANTE REBIC.There have been few ugly challenges at the World Cup, but Rebic's studs-up foul on Mexico's Hector Moreno rightly earned him the just the fourth straight red card of the World Cup after Portugal's Pepe, Uruguay's Maxi Pereira and Cameroon's Alex Song.