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Brazil’s Neymar celebrates with Paulinho after opening the scoring. Photograph:Kieran McManus/BPI/REX/Shutterstock

Cautious Brazil Overcome Mexican Challenge

It has been a World Cup full of surprises. Countries like Argentina, Spain, Germany and Portugal are already out and we aren’t even through to the quarter-finals! If anything, seeing a heavily supported team going against an impressive lesser team is not how the script of this World Cup was expected. Brazil, France and Belgium are the only highly favoured left in this tournament.

This game was another instance where a potential upset could have been on the cards. The game certainly hinged that way in the initial stages, with Mexico hitting Brazil repeatedly on the counter. Carlos Vela was at the forefront of most of those counter-attacks with some great crosses and Brazil took their time to get into the game. When they did, they created decent chances and Mexico turned to one of their World Cup heroes in Guillermo Ochoa. He did not pull off any stunners in the first half but a string of decent saves showing that their 2014 hero is still solid in goal.

Nonetheless, the first half ended 0-0. In the second half, experience showed and Brazil took the lead early in the first half through Neymar.It may have been a tap-in but his run and back heel to Willian split the Mexican defence up for the cross that lead to the goal.

From thereon, Mexico tried very hard to find a way back into the game, bringing on Layun and Jimenez to try and make a difference. Yet, Alisson’s goal was relatively untroubled. Towards the end though, Brazil sealed the deal. While Mexico were trying to pile on the pressure Brazil broke, and Neymar saw his shot parried into the path of Roberto Firmino who scored into an empty net.

In the end, it did seem like a professional job from Brazil. They played Mexico out of the game, when they realised their opponents were out of steam, they pounced.

For Mexico, it seems like the curse just won’t go away. They now have crashed out in the round of 16 in the last 7 consecutive World Cups. Ochoa took the limelight yet again for them, registering 8 saves this match. One shy of his tally vs Germany which is the highest number of saves in a World Cup 2018 match. One way or another, he always turns up for the big matches. Carlos Vela was another shining light for Mexico this game, with his first-half performance particularly gaining quite a lot of plaudits. He got his team close to scoring on the counter with some wonderful passes.

For Brazil, the most successful World Cup nation move on to yet another quarterfinals appearance where they will meet Belgium. The biggest negative for them today would have been that Casemiro received a yellow card, which means he will be suspended for the quarter-final clash. His statistics from today show why he will be missed potentially vs the likes of Hazard and Mertens.

Luckily for them, Fernandinho is a more than capable replacement for Casemiro. Another negative is that yet again, we saw one of football’s superheroes, Neymar on numerous occasions exaggerate the amount of contact made with him during a tackle. At the start, Mexico went a bit rough on him with their initial tackles which left him quiet for some portions of the first half. Other teams could look at this as a possible method of dealing with him.

To sum it up, it wasn’t a nail-biting affair, but it was definitely a lot better than some of the knockout matches we saw yesterday.


Feature Image via Guardian

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