World Cup: Fred finally fires as hosts Brazil reach last 16 with Mexico

CAMEROON 1 BRAZIL 4
CROATIA 1 MEXICO 3

UNDER-FIRE forward Fred ended his World Cup goal drought to send hosts Brazil through to the last 16 as Group A winners alongside Mexico last night.

Fred’s place had come under scrutiny for his failure to impress in the first two matches, but his header early in the second half silenced any doubters as he took his international record to 18 goals in 36 caps.

Brazil’s place in the knockout stage was still uncertain as they arrived in an expectant Brasilia, but a first-half brace from poster boy Neymar came either side of Joel Matip’s first goal for Cameroon to settle nerves.

Fred headed in David Luiz’s cross five minutes into the second half and Manchester City midfielder Fernandinho wrapped up the win when he slotted in with six minutes remaining after Cameroon gave away possession cheaply from a free-kick on the edge of their own box.

Fernandinho’s strike looked to have greater significance than he may have realised, with Mexico at that point 3-0 up and needing only one more goal to usurp Brazil as group winners.

Defender Rafael Marquez, captaining Mexico at a World Cup for the fourth time, headed in the opening goal on 72 minutes and, three minutes later, Andres Guardado fired in the second goal with a sublime first-time finish.

Substitute Javier Hernandez headed in on 82 minutes to set up a grandstand finish. But after Brazil netted so did Croatia, with Ivan Perisic slotting in from a tight angle before substitute Ante Rebic was sent off for a high challenge on Carlos Pena.