An insipid Brazil will deservedly come in for a heavy amount of scrutiny after a lackluster display in a 0-0 draw with Mexico in their second game of Group A. The heroics of Mexico goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa kept the hosts at bay with some stunning saves but he was a part of a mighty team effort, which came close to snatching the win in the dying stages.
Mexico impressed with their discipline and counter-attacking but Brazil have a lot of questions to answer for a display that does not signal potential champions. Neymar was again impressive but the over reliance on him to carry his team was startlingly apparent. The midfield was sluggish. The attacking players were contained and centre-forward Fred was anonymous.
A draw in the final game against Cameroon will be enough for Brazil to progress to the Knockout rounds but it is a situation they were expected to avoid. Mexico can be proud of their effort and be a little disappointed that they didn’t go on to win. They suffocated Neymar and Oscar, and exploited the space in behind Brazil’s rampaging full-backs when going forward. Their only chances were from distance but on more than one occasion they went mightily close.
Heading into the game, Brazil made one change to the side that beat Croatia as wide man Hulk failed to overcome a knock he picked up earlier this week. Such is the threat of Mexico’s 5-3-2 formation, Scolari picked Chelsea’s Ramires to provide strength and discipline on the right hand side. This worked well defensively but Brazil missed the penetration of a traditional wide player. Scolari rectified his mistake and Ramires was replaced at half-time with the more flamboyant Bernard. However, Mexico grew in confidence the longer it stayed goalless and went forward with increasing belief that they could win.
After playing so open against Cameroon, Mexico was robust and physical early on in a clear tactic to disrupt Brazil’s early flow. A packed midfield irritated the crowd as their side couldn’t get their creative players on the ball on a regular basis. Neymar drew a super save from Ochoa with a header while David Luiz stabbed a close range effort straight at the keeper after a set-piece fell perfectly at his feet, but that was as close as they came in a frustrating first half.
Mexico came out of their shell in the second period and could have snatched the win as Andres Guardado and Raul Jimenez went close, with Jimenez forcing a good save from Cesar. But it was Ochoa who was man-of-the-match. He made a couple of smart saves to deny Neymar in the second half before making a stunning reaction save to deny Thiago Silva from point-blank range. Mexico were good value for their point and will give any team a game in this tournament, while Brazil need to re-discover their traditional swagger if they are going to give the home support what they demand and lift a sixth World Cup.
SEE MORE — Watch highlights of Mexico 0-0 Brazil.