Host nation Brazil advanced from Group A with a convincing win over bottom side Cameroon.
Ex-Blues boss Luiz Felipe Scolari made only one change to the side that struggled to a draw against Mexico, with Ramires making way for Hulk. Willian came on for the final 19 minutes, while Oscar continued in his central role behind striker Fred.
Brazil finally looked like the team they could be after two comparatively poor performances against Croatia and Mexico – full of attacking verve and guile, and perhaps most importantly for fans of the Selecao – the whole team looked capable of producing the goods, rather than relying on Oscar and star man Neymar.
And of course, it was Neymar who scored Brazil’s opener. Luiz Gustavo collected possession on the left hand side, and after some neat footwork to free himself into space, fired a cross in which Neymar finished with a delightful first-time strike into the bottom corner past a helpless Charles Itandje. It was the 100th goal of this World Cup already, and it was somewhat fitting that the poster boy for the host nation was score it in such wonderful fashion.
The atmosphere was incredible following the goal, the fans well and truly being the 12th man. However, silence soon fell upon Brasilia’s Estadio Nacional when Cameroon clearly did not read the script. Allan Nyom sped past Dani Alves and cut back for Joel Matip to equalise, crashing the yellow and green party.
For 8 minutes it looked like a World Cup full of thrills and shocks could be producing another as already-eliminated Cameroon looked to salvage pride in the most unexpected of ways with a result against the pre-tournament favourites. However, it would again be Neymar who provided the spark to give Brazil the lead.
The Barcelona forward raced upfield and sent ex-Liverpool stopper Itandje the wrong way to put Brazil 2-1 up. Full of confidence, Neymar combined with Paulinho and Oscar to set up Hulk, who failed to find the net to produce what would have been the best team goal of the tournament.
Paulinho was substituted for Fernandinho at half time, a move that was greeted well by the home fans. It was a move that had an immediate impact. He played in Hulk with a superb pass, with Henri Bedimo executed an inch-perfect tackle to deny him. However, it went straight back to the Manchester City man who found David Luiz. The ex-Chelsea centre back whipped in a great ball for Fred to tap home for 3-1. Replays showed suspicions of offside, but given his poor performances in the tournament, the Fluminense forward will not care a jot as he finally bagged his first goal of the World Cup.
Despite a dominant performance, Mexico were 3-0 up in the other game, which meant another goal for them, or another for Cameroon meant they would have finished the group as runners up instead of table toppers as widely expected. Fernandinho soon had something to say about that as he slotted home a fourth to seal Brazil’s place at the peak of Group A.
Brazil will play South American rivals Chile in the round of 16 on Saturday, while fellow qualifiers from Group A Mexico will play the Netherlands on Sunday.