Neymar 71' (pen)
Marcelo 11' (OG)
The hosts languished for the first thirty, and even gave up the clean sheet when Croatia's Ivica Olic struck a beautiful low cross right into the feet of the onrushing Marcelo, who was utterly unable to avoid redirecting the ball into the net. But as the first third ended, Neymar struck a worm-burner which glanced off the post and in, tying the game and bringing some life to the Seleção.
The rest of the half passed without incident, but after the break Croatia came out showing arguably too much desperation. They maintained the draw, however, until an absolutely ludicrous penalty was offered when Fred took a dive after stumbling backward into Dejan Lovren. Neymar slotted the penalty for his second goal, and after that both the run of play and the calls went entirely in favor of the hosts. Oscar drilled the exclamation point home in stoppage time, the only real result of which now being that Croatia probably cannot afford to even draw with El Tricolor ten days from now.
|MATCH||TIME (CT)||NETWORK||GROUP||TEAMS / SITE||ANNOUNCERS||ODDS|
Mexico vs Cameroon
Arena das Dunas, Natal
Spain vs Netherlands
Arena Fonte Nova, Salvador
Chile vs Australia
Arena Pantanal, Cuiabá
The middle game is the highlight of the day, as two proud European sides face off in a contest which will in all likelhood decide Group B right from the jump. But more on that below.
Game 2: Mexico-Cameroon
Our frenemies to the south will look to set themselves up to advance, but the Indomitable Lions won't be an easy mark for a side which has spent this entire qualifying cycle in deep trouble. The teams have met once before, a 1-0 Mexican victory in a 1993 friendly.
|13||Goal||Gullermo Ochoa||Ajaccio (FRA)||28||59||0|
|22||Back||Paul Aguilar||América (MEX)||28||30||3|
|2||Back||Francisco Javier Rodríguez||América (MEX)||32||95||1|
|15||Back||Héctor Moreno||Espanyol (ESP)||26||53||1|
|7||Midfield||Miguel Layún||América (MEX)||25||15||2|
|23||Midfield||José Juan Vázquez||León (MEX)||26||5||0|
|18||Midfield||Andrés Guardado||Bayer Leverkusen (GER)||27||104||14|
|6||Midfield||Héctor Herrera||Porto (POR)||24||13||0|
|10||Striker||Giovani Dos Santos||Villareal (ESP)||25||76||14|
|19||Striker||Oribe Peralta||Santos Laguna (MEX)||27||104||16|
This is the lineup Miguel Herrera has announced for El Tricolor already, though it's still subject to change. It's Ochoa's first World Cup start in net for the Mexicans, though he's been part of the squad for a decade. There's a lot of relative inexperience in the lineup, owing to the year of chaos which has afflicted the Mexican squad; only four players remain from the initial Confederations Cup roster from last year. Riding the pine at kickoff will be Javier "Chicharito" Hernandez, the Manchester United striker; he'll almost certainly be seen later in the contest.
|16||Goal||Charles Itandje||Konyaspor (TUR)||31||9||0|
|4||Back||Cédric Djeugoué||Colton Sport (CMR)||21||3||0|
|21||Back||Joël Matip||Schalke 04 (GER)||22||23||0|
|3||Back||Nicolas N'koulou||Marseille (FRA)||24||48||0|
|12||Back||Henri Bedimo||Lyon (FRA)||30||31||0|
|18||Midfield||Eyong Enoh||Antalyaspor (TUR)||28||38||2|
|6||Midfield||Alex Song||Barcelona (ESP)||26||47||0|
|18||Midfield||Stéphane Mbia||Sevilla (ESP)||28||49||3|
|6||Forward||Benjamin Moukandjo||Nancy (FRA)||25||17||2|
|13||Forward||Maxim Choupo-Moting||Mainz 05 (GER)||25||26||12|
Still a very rough guess here; Colton Sport's Loic Feudjou could get the start in goal, Allan Nyom of Granada (ESP) and Benoît Assou-Ekotto (Queens Park Rangers) could find his way into the starting backline in place of Djeugoué and/or Bedimo, and German coach Volker Finke could opt for Fenerbahçe's Pierre Webó up front ahead of Choupo-Moting in a two-striker set with Eto'o, with Moukandjo sliding back to more of a midfield role. Enoh and Matip could flip positions as well. It's a very young squad, yet still has a lot of international experience -- but that starting eleven listed above has a grand total of seven career international goals outside of Eto'o and Choupo-Moting. The Lions only barely qualified for the Cup, backing into their spot when Togo was docked points in qualifications, and the very nearly didn't show up for the event after a quarrel with the national federation over money... and Eto'o is facing major shade from the Cameroon faithful, who are calling him a traitor for leading the strike and refusing to accept the nation's flag at the airport on departure.
Mexico should handle the Africans, but Cameroon have been notably pesky in the past. It should be interesting, at least. SB Nation's Kevin McCauley has a more in-depth preview.
Game 3: Spain-Netherlands
Four years ago, the World Cup ended with a 1-0 win for the Spaniards in the World Cup final, so this -- the first time ever the previous World Cup finalists have met in the succeeding competition's group stage -- is a hotly-anticipated rematch between two of Europe's powers. That meeting was the most recent of nine matches between the two nations; each team has won four, and they've drawn once.
|Real Madrid (ESP)||33||154||0|
|3||Back||Gerard Piqué||Barcelona (ESP)||27||60||4|
|15||Back||Sergio Ramos||Real Madrid (ESP)||28||117||9|
|22||Back||César Azpilicueta||Chelsea (ENG)||24||6||0|
|18||Back||Jordi Alba||Barcelona (ESP)||25||26||5|
|16||Midfield||Sergio Busquets||Barcelona (ESP)||25||65||0|
|14||Midfield||Xabi Alonso||Real Madrid (ESP)||32||111||15|
|8||Midfield||Xavier Hernandez||Barcelona (ESP)||34||132||13|
|21||Forward||David Silva||Manchester United (ENG)||28||80||20|
|19||Forward||Diego Costa||Atlético Madrid (ESP)||25||2||0|
|6||Forward||Andrés Iniesta||Barcelona (ESP)||30||97||11|
There is literally no disagreement within the media over which eleven players Vicente del Bosque will order to take the pitch for Spain tomorrow. And why would there be? When every single member of your starting eleven is on a 2015 Champions League squad, well... you're doing pretty okay. And who's not in that starting XI? Oh, only Chelsea's Fernando Torres, Bayern Munich's Javi Martinez, Barcelona's Cesc Fàbregas... you get the picture.
|NETHERLANDS (3-5-1-1 OR 3-4-1-2)|
|1||Goal||Jasper Cillessen||Ajax (NED)||25||8||0|
|4||Back||Bruno Martins Indi||Feyenoord (NED)||22||16||2|
|2||Back||Ron Vlaar||Aston Villa (ENG)||29||24||1|
|3||Back||Stefan de Vrij||Feyenoord (NED)||22||12||0|
|5||Midfield||Daley Blind||Ajax (NED)||24||12||0|
|7||Midfield||Daryl Janmaat||Feyenoord (NED)||24||16||0|
|18||Midfield||Leroy Fer||Norwich City (ENG)||24||6||0|
|8||Midfield||Nigel de Jong||AC Milan (ITA)||29||71||1|
|11||Midfield||Arjen Robben||Bayern Munich (GER)||30||75||23|
|10||Forward||Wesley Sneijder||Galatasaray (TUR)||30||99||26|
|9||Striker||Robin van Persie
|Manchester United (ENG)||30||85||43|
The Dutch, under new Manchester United boss Louis van Gaal, are presenting an extremely inexperienced squad. The big four up front average over 80 caps each, but the other seven members of the starting eleven have fewer than 100 caps among them. Of course, that big four is pretty important, especially the three forwards. The starting XI is probably set, with the main question being whether van Gall will opt to pair Robben with van Persie up front or play van Persie as a lone striker, pulling Robben back to a forward midfield position. The most notable leg on the bench is former Liverpool and current Fenerbahçe forward Dirk Kuyt, the squad's leader in caps with 98.
SB Nation's in-depth preview on this match is provided by Jack Sargeant.
Game 4: Chile-Australia
The nightcap is probably going to be an exercise in anti-climax. Chile is the prohibitive favorite here, and in four matches the Roos have only managed a single draw.
|CHILE (4-3-3 OR 3-4-4)|
|Real Sociedad (ESP)||31||79||0|
|2||Back||Eugenio Mena||Santos (BRA)||25||25||3|
|17||Back||Gary Medel||Cardiff City (ENG/WAL)||26||61||5|
|18||Back||Gonzalo Jara||Nottingham Forest (ENG)||28||65||3|
|4||Def/Mid||Mauricio Isla||Juventus (ITA)||26||47||2|
|16||Midfield||Felipe Gutiérrez||Twente (NED)||23||18||1|
|21||Midfield||Marcelo Diaz||Basel (SUI)||27||21||1|
|20||Midfield||Charles Aránguiz||Internacional (BRA)||25||21||2|
|10||Forward||Jorge Valdivia||Palmeiras (BRA)||30||57||4|
|7||Forward||Alexis Sánchez||Barcelona (ESP)||25||67||22|
|9||Forward||Eduardo Vargas||Valencia (ESP)||24||30||14|
This lineup is still up in the air, and several changes could be made by La Roja's Argentinian manager Jorge Sampaoli. The most important relies on Juventus midfielder Arturo Vidal, who's facing a fitness test after aggravating a knee issue in Chile's last warmup. If he's able to go, he'll probably supplant Gutierrez in the above lineup. Also missing is Matias Fernández, the Fiorentina midfielder who went down with an ankle injury and was as a result left off the squad entirely. Jara might give way to Francisco Silva, from Spanish side Osasuna, and finally, the formation might be altered; Isla could move up into a midfield position, shifting the 4-3-3 to a 3-4-3.
|1||Goal||Matthew Ryan||Club Brugge (BEL)||22||7||0|
|3||Back||Jason Davidson||Heracles Almelo (NED)||22||7||0|
|6||Back||Matthew Spiranovic||Western Sydney Wanderers(AUS)||25||18||0|
|2||Back||Ivan Franjic||Brisbane Roar (AUS)||26||9||0|
|19||Back||Ryan McGowan||Shandong Luneng Taishan (CHN)||24||9||0|
|5||Midfield||Mark Milligan||Melbourne Victory (AUS)||28||29||2|
|Crystal Palace (ENG)||29||44||4|
|23||Midfield||Mark Bresciano||Al-Gharafa (QAT)||34||74||13|
|11||Forward||Tommy Oar||Utrecht (NED)||22||15||1|
|7||Forward||Matthew Leckie||FSV Frankfurt (GER)||23||8||1|
|4||Striker||Tim Cahill||New York Red Bulls (MLS)||34||69||32|
Greek coach Ange Postecoglou doesn't seem to have too many decisions to make ahead of kickoff, and most seem to agree the above is what we'll see tonight. However, the aging Bresciano has been struggling with an injury, which would force his replacement with a lesser talent, most likely Fortuna Düsseldorf's Ben Halloran.
One of these days Australia's going to be a threat. Their domestic league has been improving at much the same rate as MLS did, and Postecouglou is making a deliberate effort to build a younger squad. But they're not there yet, and this one's going to be all Chile unless the young Australians are firing on all cylinders. Kevin McCauley's back again with SB Nation's in-depth preview of this one.
This will, as always, be your open thread for the day's matches. Join us for a full day of footy, won't you?