Brazil and Mexico played out a scoreless draw at the Fortaleza's Castelao Stadium on Tuesday night in Group A of the 2014 FIFA World Cup.
The opening exchanges were an ugly spectacle with some rough challenges from both sides. Referee Cuneyt Cakir somehow decided to keep his cards in his pocket for most of the half, allowing obvious booking offenses go unchecked.
Fred was first to show for the hosts after ten minutes but was lazily caught in an offside position. The ineffectual striker was found wanting for the majority of the game until his eventual substitution just past the hour mark. The World Cup favourites can’t expect to win footballs biggest prize with the Fluminense clubman leading the line.
Mexico’s game plan centred around disrupting Brazil’s play and, with three central defenders, Oscar, Neymar and Fred found space hard to come by.
The World Cup hosts’ squad does not encompass a central midfielder capable of craftily linking defence with attack. Time after time Brazil’s passing was lateral and unimaginative and, so, Mexico’s defence benefited from this also.
The flanks were Brazil’s only saving grace and the only tangible chance of the half fell to Brazil’s talisman Neymar on 25 minutes. A superb Dani Alves cross from the right wing was met by the head of Neymar who rose highest to head downwards. Mexico stopper and man of the match Guillermo Ochoa was equal to the effort, diving to his right and getting a strong arm to the ball.
The Mexican defence did fall asleep near the end of the half, Franciso Rodriguez playing four Brazilian players onside at a set piece, but the home team failed to convert.
In the second-half Brazil coach Philippe Scorlari decided to bring on the skilful Bernard for the hard-working Ramires. It nearly paid immediate dividends as Bernard provided a dangerous cross from the right-hand side but Rodriguez’s header stopped Neymar sneaking in at the back post.
Mexico would dominate the next ten minutes, threatening the Brazil goal with efforts from Jose Juan Vazquez, Giovani Dos Santos and a Hector Herrera effort from 25 yards that clipped the top of Julio Cesar’s goal. The Brazil defence was strong throughout and the Mexican players were reduced to these long-range efforts.
A Neymar free kick almost brought the game’s opening goal on 63 minutes but frustratingly for the fanatic home support, the ball sailed fractionally wide.
Mexico’s Ochoa was their star man of the night, saving Neymar’s half-volley on 69 minutes and then a point blank header, five minutes from time, from Brazil captain Thiago Silva. The PSG centre back had a free header from four yards out and should have scored.
The outsiders kept challenging and could sense Brazil were on the ropes. Manager Miguel Herrera threw on strikers Javier Hernandez and, Raul Jimenez, who drew a save from Cesar in the dying minutes. The rebound was yards from falling to the onrushing Hernandez.
It’s now glaringly clear, to their supporters and the world, Brazil lacks the necessary quality up front and in central midfield to be taken as serious contenders for the 2014 World Cup.
Brazil: Julio Cesar; Dani Alves, David Luiz, Thiago Silva, Marcelo; Paulihno, Luiz Gustavo, Ramires; Neymar, Fred, Oscar.
Subs not used: Hulk, Hernanes, Henrique, Jefferson Galvo, Fernandinho, Dante, Maicon, Maxwell, Victor.
Booked: Ramires (45'), Thiago Silva (79').
Mexico: Franciso Rodriguez, Rafael Marquez, Hector Moreno, Miguel Layun, Paul Aguilar; Hector Herrera, Jose Juan Vazquez, Andres Guardado; Oribe Peralta, Giovani Dos Santos.
Subs not used: Alfredo Talavera, Carlos Salcido, Diego Reyes, Alan Pulido, Miguel Ponco, Carlos Pena, Jose de Jesus Corona, Isaac Brizuela, Javier Aquino.
Booked: Guillermo Ochoa, Paul Aguilar (59'), Jose Juan Vazquez (62')
Referee: Cuneyt Cakir (Turkey)
Extratime Man of the Match: Guillermo Ochoa (Mexico)
A long time Galway United fan, Paraic is now in his third year with Extratime.ie. The 32 year old is delighted to see the name ‘United’ return and he recently signed up as the co-editor of the GUFC match-day programme. He really hopes not to make a hash of it. Follow on twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/ParaicCollins">@ParaicCollins</a>.