FIFA WC: Feel-good factor back for Brazil, Italy sweat

AFP| Last Updated: Jun 24, 2014, 18:33 PM IST

Brasilia: World Cup morale is high once again in Brazil according to superstar Neymar after the hosts finally clicked into gear to secure top spot in Group A with a 4-1 victory over hapless Cameroon.

On Tuesday it will be Italy`s turn to sweat over their World Cup progres.

Five-time champions Brazil`s worst start to a campaign in 36 years -- they had not failed to win their first two games at the tournament since 1978 -- had left many at home feeling glum.

But a swashbuckling attacking display in Brasilia on Monday in the Cameroon romp, which ensured Brazil finished above Mexico -- 3-1 winners over Croatia in Recife -- in the final standings so they avoid in-form Netherlands in the second round.

"The most important thing was the team and I think this was our best performance," said the Neymar, 22, whose brace took him to the top of the World Cup scoring charts on four.

"We are on the right track and are growing all the time as we get closer to making our dream come true."

Netherlands successfully avoided a last 16 clash against the hosts by beating Chile 2-0 in Sao Paulo.

The two sides had come into that game already qualified for the second round but with top spot in the group still unsettled.

Chile, whose goal difference was marginally inferior, needed to win to leapfrog Louis van Gaal`s team but goals from substitutes Leroy Fer and Memphis Depay gave the Dutch, for whom Arjen Robben bristled again, a deserved victory. They will play Mexico next.

Despite topping the group, which included reigning world champions Spain, with a perfect record of three wins, the Dutch came under fire from their own journalists for a supposed lack of attacking football, despite being the tournament`s top scorers.

That brought an incredulous response from 33-year-old Fenerbahce forward Dirk Kuyt.

"You can say what you want but a team that scores 10 goals in three games with an average of 3.3 goals is not really a defensive team," said Kuyt.

"Chile wanted to attack us but they didn`t create many chances and in football the most important thing is who creates the most chances and who scores the most goals.

"And that`s what we did today (Monday)."

Spain ended their miserable campaign by restoring some pride in beating Australia 3-0 in Curitiba with veteran pair David Villa and Fernando Torres, who may both have played their last game in the red shirt, getting on the scoresheet alongside Juan Mata.

Italy tackle Uruguay on Tuesday aiming to avoid following Spain, England, Bosnia and Croatia onto the growing European scrap-heap.

While Latin American teams have mostly been enjoying a joyful tournament, few European teams have not been either struggling, or worse still, already eliminated.

Cesare Prandelli`s Azzurri need to avoid defeat against Uruguay, who trail them in Group D by goal-difference behind already qualified Costa Rica, to stave off an early and ignominious return to Rome.

Prandelli, though, insists he will not resort to classic Italian catenaccio (bolt-lock) tactics to try to make the second round.

"We are still in the competition and we`re feeling positive," he said.

"We`re concentrated on this match and we`re determined to win it."

Meanwhile, England manager Roy Hodgson has given youth and reserves a chance to restore some respect to their failed campaign in the final match against Costa Rica in Belo Horizonte.

He made nine chances to the team that started the first two matches with young and inexperienced players such as Luke Shaw, Ross Barkley, Adam Lallana and Phil Jones coming into the team.

Colombia need just a point against Japan in Cuiaba to secure top spot in Group C while Ivory Coast, who play Greece in Fortaleza, are in pole position to join them.

A victory would guarantee their last 16 berth, whereas a draw would open the door to Japan, should they manage to beat Colombia.

Greece can still qualify by winning, but if Japan are also victorious, they would need to make up a difference of two goals.