The FIFA World Cup Halftime and Postgame Thread #2 for 6/23/14: Day 12 Recap

Day 12 Team of The Day 

Four games to pick from for the second time this tournament, but this is the best eleven for day 12. 

Neymar and Arjen Robben have taken the star men role this tournament, while David Villa has given his nation a proper goodbye to his international career and his team's involvement in Brazil 2014.

Guillermo Ochoa didn't have to produce nearly as much as he did against Brazil, but another solid performance of organizing sees him garner a place over Dutch goalkeeper Jasper Cillessen. Ochoa's surprisingly easier day than expected against Croatia was helped by his captain Rafael Marquez, who continues to resemble the top class defender he was a decade ago.

Although his teammate Hector Moreno is unlucky to not make this list, Ron Vlaar of The Netherlands deserved his place with his best national team performance in helping shutout Chile. Assisting Vlaar in that rare solid defensive display for Van Gaal's was Dirk Kuyt, the offensive player transformed into a fine makeshift leftback. Alexis Sanchez chose to come to the center more than attack him directly, as Kuyt maintained his disclipine to not go naturally forward as he is use to doing and gave his manager evidence that he could start against Mexico.

The all Dutch-Mexican backline is completed with Paul Aguilar, whose energy was sensational today and gave young Croatian replacement leftback Sime Vrsaljko some lessons on how to be an outside presence.

Winning their battles also with their Croatian counterparts were Jose Juan Vasquez and Miguel Herrera, who resembled more the high profile midfielders taking part in the game than Ivan Rakitic and Luka Modric. While Rakitic and Modric's UEFA title winning seasons were great, they simply didn't have the energy to deal with the two way forces that Vasquez and Herrera were. The latter's rattling shot off the bar changed the momentum of the game in the first half, while Vasquez again provided timely tackling. Shame for Miguel though that the Leon man picked up a second yellow card and will be out for their Round of 16 contest.

Completing the best eleven of the day was Fernandinho, who couldn't have made a stronger case to now be a permanent starter in Luis Scolari's team after his instant impact off the bench. Coming on for a struggling Paulinho in the first half, the Manchester City holding midfielder set up Luiz's pass to Fred for the third tally and finished off the scoring to complete the best team goal for Brazil this tournament.

(Come back tomorrow for Group C and D finale day, with Group D up first at 11:30 AM ET. Goodbye for now)

Group A Recap 

FT: Croatia 1-3 Mexico  

12 months ago, Mexican was in the midst of a listless Confederations Cup that would continue a forgettable 2013.

8 months ago they needed Graham Zusi from all nations, the United States, to preventing their elimination from World Cup participations.

Even a few weeks back, after defeats to Bosnia and Portugal with Luis Montes having his leg broken against Ecuador, it seemed Mexico would finish an inevitable third with a lost against both Brazil and Croatia.

But the marvel that is Miguel Hererra, luminary young midfielders, and a rejuvenated center back duo have erased the misery of 2013 and has recaptured that massive joy of their historic 2012.

The conditioning that this Mexico team is now in is as elite as their CONCACAF brethren Costa Rica and the USA. Luka Modric, Ivan Rakitic, and Mario Mandzukic's long club campaigns showed tonight as they didn't offer anything of significance when their country required it most. Meanwhile Ivica Olic resembled a man who was 34-year-old and was listless as well. Only Ivan Perisic, a man who hasn't had to worry about European games or being an old age, had a real genuine threat for Niko Kovac's side. Kovac may have to rethink his decision having both Danijel Pranjic and Sime Vrsaljko on the same side as a mistake, while Mateo Kovacic just couldn't produce anything of significance.  

But that was also due to the physical tireless pairing of Miguel Herrera and Gio Vasquez, with a reborn Andres Guardado completing a fantastic midfield. They were all sensational and were spurred on by a backline that got the usual class display from Hector Moreno and the continued sensational fountain of youth pairing of Maza Rodriguez and Rafa Marquez.

Marquez and Rodriguez looked like they would never be on the national team again after the age of Mexican captain saw him out of the side, while Rodriguez lost the captaincy of the team under Victor Vucetich after constant mistakes throughout last year.

After getting an easy warm up against a listless Cameroon side that had Samuel Eto'o easily blow his only chance, Marquez and Rodriguez have produced arguably the best performances of their national team careers. Marquez, buoyed by scoring the huge first goal, was so confident after the great win that he uttered these comments.

"Right now, Mexico is strong to beat anybody."

The Dutch have to be well aware of that indeed.

FT: Cameroon 1-4 Brazil 

Photo from Getty Images

Fernandinho's arrival in the second half could be the last time Paulinho starts in this tournament. For weeks now, fans have been calling for the Manchester City man to feature more than the Tottenham physical presence. And when the Brazilian supporters needed their midfield to be more solid in the second half after Enoh and Mbia were moving them back, Scolari did just that.

That move lead to the substitute contributing to Fred's goal and then rounding out the scoring with a fine finish to give Scolari major reasons to have him in the first XI against Chile. Energetic displays by Dani Alves and Marcelo will make things a little better, but there are still firm questions at the back with David Luiz.

To be fair to him, Thiago Silva deserves the blame as well for allowing that Enoh cross to get Matip for Cameroon's goal. But it was a fine first half performance still with a lot of leaks in the back, as their CONMBEOL rivals Chile will give it their all to constantly expose on Saturday. Especially when midfield runners like Aranguiz, Gutierrez, Valdivia and a rested Arturo Vidal will love to parade in at any moment.

On the other side of the ball, to have Fred get on the score board was such a relief for Scolari. But with Hulk still in search for his first goal after Neymar's fine set up chance for him didn't produce a breakthrough, that's still a concern for Scolari.  And after a Man of the Match opening performance against Croatia, Oscar hasn't found the brilliance these past two matches.

That was all taken away of course by the man of the moment, Senhor Neymar and his continued one man show. The 22-year-old is loving the pressure to perform once again, and it is a beautiful thing to witness.

Halftime Version 

Brasil-Cameroon Tactics

Can't speak enough about how maybe that cross that lead to Matip's goal is presented if Dante, Miranda, and even Luisao could have prevented that cross from Enoh.

But once again, the brilliance of Neymar almost even helped Fred and Hulk get off the snide.

Croatia-Mexico Tactics

Kovac may have to bring in Kovacic and move Olic up front with Mandzukic . Despite Croatia having a bit more of the midfield, Hector Herrera has been the best player in the match. And with Modric and Rakitic not destroyers, he may counter to make things happen.

So far, good enough from him, Vasquez, and Guardado.

(Back for the postgame....)

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