Old foes Brazil face Mexico in a crunch round of 16 fixture in FIFA World Cup in Samara,Russia. The have faced each other 50 times in various tournaments and friendlies before with Brazil winning the majority of the duels. To be precise Brazil has won in 23 matches and Mexico in 10 matches with the rest being draws. In FIFA World Cups they have faced each other in 4 matches out of which Brazil has won 3 times and one match has been a draw. Interestingly Mexico has never scored against Brazil in World Cups. Can Mexico change it all in Russia? Mexico’s campaign started off to a flier by defeating the defending World Champions Germany and South Koreans in the Group matches. But incredibly an amateurish performance in the final group encounter against the Swedes saw them lose 3-0. On the other hand, Brazil looked rusty in their first group match against Switzerland and were held to a 1-1 draw. But gradually the Brazilians picked up their game won their next two encounters convincingly against Costa Rica and Serbia. Let’s now quickly do a preview of Brazil vs Mexico’s round of 16 match and find out their strategies and team formations they are likely to opt for this game.
Brazil despite their favourite’s tag has hardly shown their so called fervour and finesse in their gameplay in the group matches. To be fair they have relied heavily on their robust defensive quartet and Phillipe Coutinho and Neymar in attack. The defensive line of Marcelo,Thiago Silva,Miranda and Danilo has looked extremely compact. Allison looks very much assured between the sticks too. The understanding between the two central defenders of Silva and Miranda has been exquisite. Tite will expect Marcelo and Danilo to be both fit before the match. Midfield has looked a bit slow and their ball distribution has been below average. Coutinho has been Brazil’s standout player so far in the tournament scoring two and assisting one. He clerverly shifts positions in the midfield and his interplay with Neymar often confuses opponents. He has been the sole source of creativity for the forwards upfront. Paulinho although scored in the last match has to up his game considerably with his passing and tackling. The right flank is another major concern for Tite as Willian has misfired badly. He was replaced by a finer Douglas Costa but the latter sustained an injury and Willian had to be unwillingly reinstated. Gabriel Jesus has been desperately trying to find the back of the net but in vain. He has been both wasteful and unlucky not to have scored. Neymar’s game has gradually improved as the tournament progressed. In the last two games he has looked lethal despite being doubled or tripled up by opponents.
Strategically Tite will continue with his winning team combination and a 4-3-3 team formation. He will definitely want his flanks to be more agile and provide with many more crosses in the opponent’s box and final third passes upfront. The right flank has looked the most vulnerable with no understanding between Willian and Fagner(who replaced an injured Danilo). More freedom has to be provided to Coutinho and Neymar moving upfront as they have looked the most dangerous amongst all Brazillian attackers. Constant interchanging of position in the midfield can confuse the Mexicans. Paulinho and Casemiro has to quickly release the ball or else the threat of getting dispossessed remain.
Predicted Starting Lineups
Brazil (4-3-3): Allison; Filippe Luis, Silva, Miranda, Danilo; Coutinho, Casemiro, Paulinho;Neymar,Jeus,Willian.
When we first saw Mexico’s game against the Germans we were awestruck. They played with great pace, used their flanks well, the central midfielders disrupted the opponents foreward runs and passes comfortably, the defensive line looked a compact and their goalkeeper was at his best. They opened up the German defense at will. Their counter attacks especially from the left wing looked deadly. It was just a treat to watch. Overnight Mexico became one of the dark horses of the tournament. Although their momentum dropped a little in the next match, still they managed to out-run and defeat a fast and youthful South Korean team. But in their final group match against Sweden they collapsed badly and were trounced by 3-0.Thanks to South Korea’s win over Germany,Mexico have advanced nonetheless and now are confronted with the curse of the round of 16. Not since 1986 have Mexico been able to get past the last 16. The backline despite having a bad game against Sweden looks set with Jesus Gallardo,Hugo Ayala ,Carlos Salcido and Edson Alvarez. Guillermo Ochoa has looked to continue his great form since the last Brazil World Cup and is already leading the charts of maximum saves (17 to be precise). Experienced central defender Hector Moreno will be out serving a one match due to suspension. Hugo Ayala will replace him. The midfield trio of Carlos Vela,Miguel Layun and Hirving Lozano has looked impressive throughout. Lozano has been their stand-out player by a long distance. The catalyst of majority of Mexico’s counter attacks has been Lozano. Upfront the experienced Javier Hernandez looks in fine form too with his mobility and goal scoring attribute.
Coach Juan Carlos Osario will be well aware of his teams strengths and weaknesses against a more established Brazilian team. He will try to replicate their game which they displayed against Germany. The coach will try to put as many as players possible in the midfield and defense and try to thwart any kind of Brazilian attack either from the flanks or center of the field. In order to nullify Neymar and Coutinho’s attacks, they have to heavily man mark them. Osario might well have gauged Brazil’s weak right flank and might start Lozano from the right. Mexicans will try to score from fast counter attacks.
Predicted Starting Lineups
Mexico (4-2-3-1): Ochoa; Gallardo, Moreno, Salcido, Alvarez; Guardado, Ayala; Lozano,Vela,Layun; Hernandez.
My prediction: Brazil 1-0 Mexico