Out of the innumerable predictions for this fixture, few would have predicted scores involving less than two goals. A minuscule number of predictors would have foreseen a draw, and a microscopic prescient population would have foreseen a goalless draw. Yet, despite all the mathematics, it was Brazil who were left frustrated and Mexico feeling proud.
Brazil had the questions, but not the right ones; Mexico answered all. The former attacked with crosses, step overs, through balls, counter attacks; Mexico stood tall. The Brazil dribbled, ran, tackled, shot and headed from close range; Mexico didn’t relent.
Mexico were here to not lose, and they were determined not to. The manager dropped Chicharito to the bench in a clear statement of intentions. Brazil, though, had to replace Fred with Ramires owing to injury. The Mexicans’ formation of 5-3-2 was designed for containment and right from the start it worked brilliantly. As the likes of Neymar, Oscar, Alves and Marcelo charged from all sides, the Mexicans stood firm like a brick wall. The match was physically very intense with regular interruptions from fouls. Flying boots and reckless challenges were the order of the day and the referee must be credited for ending the game with 22 players playing.
The Selecao’s game was far from dismal. All the usual stars were performing at their usual levels, taking on two or three defenders and finding space in the cramped zones. Yet, El Tricolor had prepped well and no sooner did a flank open up, than the players coalesced and hounded the attacker off the ball. The tactic worked flawlessly.
Yet, the haughty Brazilians are impossible to contain forever. Though a majority of the Brazilian’s attack waves were thwarted, a significant number of crosses reached the box, more so via set pieces. However, the last line of defense, the goalkeeper, stood tenaciously adamant, denying Neymar (twice), Fred, Thiago Silva and Paulinho, players who managed a shot at goal from within the 6-yard box. Indeed, Ochoa’s performance is undoubtedly one of the best ever goalkeeping displays in the world cup; the Mexican’s saves befit a higher stage of the competition.
Brazil weren’t flawless in attack though. Fred was disappointingly dismal and his replacement Jo wasn’t much different. Scolari needs to work on his strikers, who were equally unimpressive in the opening game against Croatia. In defence, they were exposed however captain Silva’s heroics successfully prevented the Mexicans from invading the penalty area too often.
One area where the home side faltered was the defensive midfield. Coach Herrera had resolved to the tactic of shooting from afar and many a shot did teemingly whisk past the woodwork. Dos Santos, Herrera, Moreno, Peralta and others all were poignantly shooting rockets throughout the game. Despite their persistence, the Brazilian midfield failed to adapt and space was afforded right till the end for these meek yet intimidating efforts. What a day it would have been, if one of those 10 shots had gone in.
In the end, it was the Mexicans who outclassed Brazil yesterday. Without playing too defensive, La Verde showed how to tame the beast. The Canarinho were elegant, but sometimes elegant just is not good enough.
However, Brazil’s hopes shouldn’t be too dampened though. should they play like they did against Mexico in their final group stage match, I doubt if the insipid Cameroon will be able to handle them.
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