Brazil celebrated their 100th FIFA World Cup™ match with a fittingly entertaining 4-1 victory over Cameroon to arrange a mouthwatering Round of 16 meeting with fellow South Americans Chile.
A double from Neymar, now the top scorer at the tournament with a quartet of strikes, and second-half efforts by Fred and Fernandinho proved enough to secure top spot in Group A for Luiz Felipe Scolari’s team, ahead of Mexico on goal difference. Their opponents, on the other hand, say farewell to the competition without a point from three outings.
Buoyed by reverberating noise in Brasilia, the hosts were fast and direct, causing consternation for the African side regularly from kick-off by moving the ball to their frontline as quickly as possible. They were thankful for the positioning of Marcelo in the tenth minute, however – the Real Madrid full-back crucially blocked a goal-bound piledriver from Eyong Enoh.
When Brazil’s breakthrough arrived on 17 minutes – the 100th goal of the tournament – the conversion was sublime. Luiz Gustavo pressed intensely on the left flank, won possession, strode forward and dispatched an accurate cross into the area for Neymar, who in one swift movement opened up his body and side-footed first time around the goalkeeper to nestle the ball into the corner.
Charles Itandje’s hands were no doubt sore when he was required to fist out a thunderous volley from the A Seleção No10, and Henri Bedimo’s awareness in covering was the only reason Fred could not tap home an extender having been picked out by a low Paulinho delivery into the danger area.
Momentum soured into misunderstanding within nine minutes of the opener, though, when Cameroon responded. Allan Nyom refused to concede in his attempt to navigate around Dani Alves and grasped a modicum of space to drill along the six-yard box. Waiting was midfielder Joel Matip for one of the most straightforward finishes of his career.
For all that Volker Finke’s team were competitive against the five-time champions, Neymar terrified his opponents with every touch. And the 22-year-old only required a couple when Marcelo collected a loose clearance and knocked forward into the Barcelona prodigy’s path. Afforded too much freedom, he set himself and dispatched a daisy-cutter underneath Itandje and into the net for his fourth goal of the FIFA World Cup.
With a Round of 16 berth within touching distance, Brazil adopted a frenetic pace when the second half kicked off; a fine Bedimo tackle thwarted Hulk, Itandje got important fingertips to a Fred drive and the goalkeeper deflected a Neymar free-kick over the crossbar as Finke’s charges desperately tried to hold firm.
But their resistance soon buckled. Failure to adequately clear defensive lines cost the Indomitable Lions dearly, with David Luiz pouncing inside the left channel to side-foot at a helpful height across the face of the goal for Fred at the far post. The striker made no mistake, shaping at speed to nod in from close range and open up a cushion for Brazil.
Aside from a brief scare as Neymar departed proceedings as a precaution after jarring a knee, the host nation played out the remainder of the tie comfortably, rousing themselves with six minutes left on the clock when half-time substitute Fernandinho concluded a rapid interchange of passing with a toe-poke hit that rolled beyond Itandje.