Another day of World Cup action is in the books and the first set of knockout round matchups is all set. We take a look at the lessons learned from the 12th day of the tournament.
1. Mexico takes full advantage of its opportunities
It's hard to remember now, but El Tri was in shambles back in October. Handed a lifeline by the U.S. in qualifying, the team proceeded to destroy New Zealand in a playoff to land its spot in Brazil. The draw was kind to Mexico and the team picked up seven points toadvance past the group stage for its seventh consecutive World Cup. The team has been patient, organized and ruthless in attack. Don't assume they'll bow out in the round of 16 like they have in the last five World Cups.
2. Spain's reign ends with a win
It was only fitting that David Villa and Fernando Torres were two of the scorers in Spain's 3-0 win over Australia, the team's final match in this World Cup. Villa and Torres were integral to Spain's success over the last six years
Xavi was out injured and captain Iker Casillas was benched after two awful performances, perhaps the final international match for both players. Other stalwarts such as Xabi Alonso and Pepe Reina have surely played in their last tournament. Even for neutral observers, it was bittersweet to watch this group grace the pitch together one last time., combining to score 14 goals in Euro 2008, the 2010 World Cup and Euro 2012. Villa crying as he came off the pitch Monday was undoubtedly the most emotional moment of the tournament.
3. The Dutch have a run in them
Four years after losing in the World Cup final, some (m
yself included) thought the Netherlands would fail to advance out of a group with Spain and Chile. Despite their world-class attacking threats, the Netherlands looked to have holes all over the roster and a weak back line. Instead, the Dutch breezed through Group B with three wins and managed to avoid a matchup with Brazil in the round of 16. Mexico is going to be a tough game, but for a team that completely flopped in Euro 2012 and came to Brazil with one of the toughest draws possible, the Netherlands has been a revelation.
4. Fernandinho should be starting for Brazil
The 29-year-old Manchester City midfielder didn't play at all in the first two group games, with Brazil coach Luiz Felipe Scolari choosing Paulinho to start all three. Against Cameroon, Paulinho was ineffective again and Fernandinho came on to start the second half. His impact was immediate and undeniable. Fernandinho kept constant pressure on a physical Cameroon midfield, completed 88% of his passes and scored a late goal that guaranteed Brazil first place in the group. There's no question that he should be starting against Chile.
5. Cameroon is the worst team at the World Cup
Weeks ago, Cameroon refused to board the plane to Brazil over disputes about their World Cup bonuses. The team heads home having lost all three matches, conceding nine goals in the process. Other teams have no points, but at least Australia, England and Bosnia put up a fight.