One of the first things Miguel Herrera did when he became Mexico’s fourth coach in a year was call Rafael Marquez and ask the 35-year-old defender known as “the boss” to return to the national side as captain.
On Monday, the world saw why.
Marquez’s pivotal goal from a header in the 72nd minute ignited a scoring burst, and Mexico surged into the World Cup’s knockout stage for a sixth straight time with a 3-1 triumph over Croatia in Recife, Brazil.
“I did not hesitate one minute after my talk with him to appoint him captain,” Herrera said of Marquez, now in his fourth World Cup. “He’s had many achievements in his career, personally, but he’s also provided leadership to the team, that soundness, and that is why they call him the boss.”
Marquez, Andres Guardado and Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez scored in a 10-minute span in the second half, dooming a talented Croatia side to elimination from the group stage.
The Croats had to win to advance and held the bulk of possession, but had trouble seriously threatening goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa, who kept out all efforts until an 87th-minute consolation goal from Ivan Perisic.
Mexico entered the game needing only a draw, but played aggressively and looked dangerous in attack even before breaking through. The result gave Mexico a second-place finish behind Brazil in Group A and set up a second-round meeting with Group B winner the Netherlands.
Mexico appeared to be laboring through a downspell before this World Cup. It struggled just to qualify out of CONCACAF and fired three coaches in a year’s time before Miguel Herrera took over. Herrera, known as a coach of the people for the way he engages fans on social media and at times in public, ultimately rescued Mexico’s hopes by leading a sound beating of New Zealand in a last-chance qualifier.
Netherlands 2, Chile 0: Leroy Fer scored a minute after coming on as a substitute to help give the Netherlands a victory over Chile in Sao Paulo.
The Dutch won Group B with three consecutive wins.
Fer had only just replaced Wesley Sneijder when he rose almost unmarked in the Chile penalty area to put the Dutch ahead with a powerful 77th-minute header. Another substitute, Memphis Depay, then finished off a counterattack in injury time to double the lead.
Both teams had already advanced to the second round, but Chile’s first loss of the tournament consigned it to second place in Group B.
The Dutch now travel to Fortaleza to play Group A runner-up Mexico in the round of 16. Chile faces the Group A winner, Brazil.
Brazil 4, Cameroon 1: Neymar scored twice in the first half to lead Brazil’s victory over Cameroon in Brasilia, helping the hosts secure a spot in the second round of the World Cup.
Fred and Fernandinho added second-half goals for Brazil, which advanced from Group A.
Neymar opened the scoring off a low cross by midfielder Luiz Gustavo in the 17th minute, deftly side-footing the ball home from close range, then restored the lead with a low right-foot strike from the top of the penalty area in the 35th minute after a pass by left back Marcelo.
Midfielder Joel Matip had equalized for already eliminated Cameroon with a tap-in from inside the area in the 26th.
Spain 3, Australia 0: Spain, the 2010 champion, salvaged some World Cup pride with a lopsided win over Australia in Curitiba.
David Villa, on his 97th and final appearance, put Spain ahead in the 36th minute with his record 59th goal.
Fernando Torres doubled Spain’s lead in the 69th as he steered the ball past Australia goalkeeper Maty Ryan following a pass from Iniesta.
Juan Mata added a third in the 82nd from close range.
Subscribe to The Spokesman-Review's sports newsletter
Get the day's top sports headlines and breaking news delivered to your inbox by subscribing here.