Brazil vs Mexico: 5 things to look forward to

Brazil started the tournament slowly, while Mexico put the reigning world champions to the sword in their opening game. Momentum has reversed since.


Reuters/PAULO WHITAKER

Brazil and Mexico travel to Samara on Monday afternoon for a tie laced with intrigue. The appearance of the five times world champions is always greeted with much anticipation, and after an unsteady start against Switzerland, there is a feeling that Tite’s side might be about to step it up a notch.

If they are to do so, this round of 16 tussle would be a good place to start. Mexico wowed with their smiting of Germany, world champions in 2014, and despite a wobble against Sweden still managed to make it through to the knockout stages for the seventh World Cup in succession.

Here are five things to look forward to in Monday’s game:

  1. 1 The importance of momentum


    Reuters/GUSTAVO GRAF

    When Mexico burst forward time and time again against Joachim Low's Germany, the reigning champions seemed incapable of adjusting. Hirving Lozano's 35th-minute opener proved to be the only divider between the two sides, but in truth Low's men were fortunate not to have lost by more.

    That performance, full of vigour and an unwillingness to be bowed in front of supposedly superior opposition, had plenty of observers cooing. Yet since then Mexican momentum has stalled. 

    A 2-1 win over South Korea was more comfortable than it looked, as the Koreans goal came by way of a late consolation. Then, on Wednesday, they were handed a thumping by Sweden, and only just made it through a group that they previously looked set to top.

    Eyes have been raised about manager Juan Carlos Osorio's decision not to rotate his squad as he has done so often in the past and, following a bright start, his side looks in danger of seeing their momentum peter out.

    Things won't be helped by an opposition that appears to be slowly kicking into gear. 

    Philippe Coutinho's rasping strike against Switzerland had plenty thinking the floodgates were set to open, yet the Swiss fought back for a deserved draw. Since then, Costa Rica were defeated in injury time, before a more assured performance saw off Serbia.

    Tite's side have not hit the heights yet but their trajectory is an upward one. Expect an early attempt to show their superiority.

  2. 2 All about Neymar?


    Reuters/CARL RECINE

    The world's eyes were on Neymar four years ago, as a host nation pinned its hopes on the then 22-year-old. 

    Those hopes were squelched almost as soon as Colombia's Juan Camilo Zuniga planted his knee in the Brazilian's back. The hosts won that tie 2-1 but, shorn of their talisman, found themselves on the end of that harrowing 7-1 loss to Germany in the semi-finals.

    So far in Russia, it has seemed like Neymar has been seeking to make up for his early departure in 2014. 

    To watch him for much of this tournament has been to witness a man who wishes to do everything himself; you get the sense that if he could get on the end of his own crosses, he most surely would try.

    Even without a whole nation breathing down his neck, the Paris Saint-Germain forward still finds himself at the centre of attention at all times.

    Against Switzerland he was perpetually fouled, but also perpetually the end of his own side's attacks: save for a goal against Costa Rica that reduced him to tears he has, for the most part, given the ball away more often than he has done something worthwhile with it.

    His manager has already been moved to scotch the idea that he had asked his star man to be more of a team player, but it would be difficult to blame him if that had in fact been the case. 

    Neymar is prodigiously talented, but he is not the only one who fits that description in this squad; just look at Coutinho's goal against the Swiss or his through ball for Paulinho's opener against Serbia.

    If the Selecao are to claim their sixth title, it will need to be about more than just one man.

  3. 3 Missing Moreno


    Reuters/JASON CAIRNDUFF

    Juan Carlos Osorio's reluctance to rotate his players had more than one downside. Whilst Sweden's heavy victory was the most obvious one, losing Hector Moreno through suspension might end up being more detrimental to Mexico's chances of progressing to the quarter-finals.

    Moreno brought down Marcus Berg for a Sweden penalty which broke the deadlock, a moment out of keeping with his key role in the side. The Real Sociedad defender is six caps shy of a century, and few are in any doubt that he will be missed against Brazil.

    UANL's Hugo Ayala looks most likely to replace Moreno. Ayala himself is no novice: at 31, he boasts over 40 international caps. But he will have to be at his best if his teammate is to have a game to return to this summer.

  4. 4 Brazil's first true test


    Reuters/AXEL SCHMIDT

    For all Brazil have slowly built a case towards lifting their sixth World Cup, it remains that their opposition thus far has been underwhelming. In their one outing against a side with any real nous, they found themselves unable to thread their way through a stoic Swiss defence.

    Mexico, therefore, offers Tite and his side their first real test in Russia. Their defeat to Sweden may have set alarm bells ringing in Mexico City, but it shouldn't be forgotten that just a fortnight ago this same team laid siege to a German side that did not know how to cope with them.

    Much will rest on how Osorio's men have recovered from the exertions of their past three games. If they have recharged their batteries and put that Swedish loss out of their minds, they will undoubtedly cause their more illustrious rivals problems, particularly on the counter.

    If that is the case, we might learn what this Brazil side is really made of.

  5. 5 Mexican hoodoos


    Reuters/JASON CAIRNDUFF

    This is the seventh time in succession that Mexico have reached the last 16. In none of the previous six World Cups have they ventured further.

    A squad infused with youth still features plenty who will bear the scars of World Cups gone by. 

    Statistics like this one are often deemed to be without merit, given that they encompass different individuals over long periods of time, but they do have an effect: just look at England and their continuing fear of penalty shootouts.

    Should Osorio and his side fail to make it to the last eight in Russia, they will doubtless point to the calibre of opposition that stood in their way. 

    They shouldn't. That Germany game showed that, on their day, this Mexico team are a match for anyone.

    Listen to the RealSport football writers discuss all the action from Day 15 of the World Cup in Kremlins in the Basement: RealSport’s daily World Cup podcast.

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