Brazil ride on Neymar's heroics to beat Mexico, enter quarters

France had already made a fashion statement at the Samara Arena, turning on the style that would put the runways of Paris to shame.

So, Tite's Brazil opted to be clinically effective and managed a 2-0 victory over Mexico in their World Cup pre-quarterfinal on Monday. Neymar was the fiercest enforcer since his comeback from injury. He broke the deadlock in the second session with a goal that was long due and then set up substitute Firmino to put the issue beyond Mexico.



It was hot and humid inside the Samara Arena. Brazilian and Mexican fans ramped up the temperature by several degrees. A who-is-hotter contest was on. The yellow of the Brazilians and the green of the Mexicans were jostling for space and attention. It was a feast for the eyes, a tremendous visual spectacle difficult to put in words. It's common when two Latin American cultures engage in a non-violent clash on the sporting fields as an expression of life.

Neymar celebrates at the end of the World Cup match against Mexico.

France had already made a fashion statement at the Samara Arena, turning on the style that would put the runways of Paris to shame. So, Tite's Brazil opted to be clinically efficient and managed a 2-0 victory over Mexico in their World Cup pre-quarterfinal on Monday.

Neymar was the fiercest enforcer since his comeback from injury. He broke the deadlock in the second session with a goal that was long due and then set up substitute Firmino to put the issue beyond Mexico.

It was hot and humid inside the Samara Arena. Brazilian and Mexican fans ramped up the temperature by several degrees. A who-is-hotter contest was on. The yellow of the Brazilians and the green of the Mexicans were jostling for space and attention. It was a feast for the eyes, a tremendous visual spectacle difficult to put in words. It's common when two Latin American cultures engage in a non-violent clash on the sporting fields as an expression of life.

With the fans enjoying themselves, Brazil left the entertainment card in the dressing-room and decided to go for the pragmatic. Conserving energy, they let Carlos Vela and Hirving Lozano do all the running down the flanks with sweeping moves. But Allison's goal was never under serious threat, as Thiago Silva and Joao Miranda were alive to the raids. The momentum started to tilt towards Brazil in the latter half of the first session as fatigue caught up with the Mexicans.

Back from the breather, Brazil found their extra gear and Neymar his magic wand. Cutting from the right, he dragged four players with him running across the face of the Mexican goal, before he heeled the ball to livewire Willian. The Chelsea winger rushed inside the box and pulled it back. Neymar arrived at the far post for a simple tap in. It was enough to prick Mexico's adventurous balloon.

Tactical adjustments followed as Neymar moved to a more central position and Gabriel Jesus took to the flanks in a more defensive role, almost playing as a supporting left back to Felipe Luis.



Out of breath, Mexico could do little but play around the Brazil box with, at times, 10 yellow shirts facing the ball.

Tite had wished Brazil to play at the similar pace and flair as they did against Serbia, but the balmy afternoon didn't provide the ideal conditions to generate such frenetic pace.

Mexico started well, spreading the ball wide for Vela and Lozano to exploit their speed. They did cause some trouble to Brazil's second-choice wing backs Fagner and Felipe Luis in the initial stages but Allison was hardly tested.

After 25 minutes, during which Tite's boys tried to conserve rather than go for broke, the momentum tilted as the Mexicans started slowing down. Vela faded out and Hernandez felt his hamstring.

From his hat, Neymar brought out the one-twos, which were earlier missing, and easily opened up the Mexican defence. Raphael Marquez's age started to show as he tried to keep a tab on Coutinho.

Neymar, playing box to box, set up Coutinho in his favourite position, just outside the Mexican area on the left. The Barcelona midfielder failed to read the pass. Neymar switched gears and tricked Edson Alvarez with his trademark inside cut but the ensuing kick was stopped by goalkeeper Ochoa. 

As Neymar warmed up to the encouragement of the yellow shirts in the stadium, Alvarez hacked him down for a stern caution from the Italian referee. The Brazil line-up screamed for a replacement. Jesus was finding it difficult to be at the right place at the right time. Going without a goal for 448 World Cup minutes is blasphemous for a Brazilian striker.

Firmino found it within two minutes of his introduction as Neymar's toe poke eluded Ochoa' s palm for the Liverpool striker to stamp Brazil's entry into the quarterfinal.

 

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