Neymar may not have scored as early as he did against Japan, but the star's ninth-minute strike was all Brazil would need to defeat Mexico in a Confederations Cup clash, 2-0.
Of course, Neymar wasn't satisfied with simply a goal, as he would also set up Jo's 93rd-minute tally as well. It was a performance to remember for the 21-year-old, who has lived up to the hype and then some in the tournament's first two games.
The win all but assures Brazil will advance to the next round, and an Italian win or draw will send them through. Meanwhile, Mexico can only hope Japan defeats Italy and keeps their extremely slim semifinal hopes alive.
The Brazilians started the game with a fury, creating several early chances and even scoring a goal in the fourth minute that was called back after Neymar was deemed offside before he sent in a cross. Mexico was reeling early.
And Neymar would strike once again for Brazil, this time in the ninth minute.
Dani Alves attempted to send a cross into the box for Fred, but it was headed away. Unfortunately for Mexico, it landed on the left foot of Neymar and the Barcelona star didn't disappoint, sending his volley into the back of the net.
Brazil didn't let up, but it was Mexico that nearly equalized in the 16th minute. Hiram Mier ripped a shot from the right side of the box across the face of goal, but his screaming attempt missed just wide.
Neymar nearly made it two in the 23rd minute. Fred sent a diagonal pass to Neymar above the box and the young star brilliantly chested it down and let fly with his left foot. But he just got under the ball, and his blistered shot sailed just over the net.
Just 23 minutes into the game, it was obvious that Neymar was in the mood, as Tyler Duffy of Big Lead Sports noted:
Mexico managed to slowly decrease the game's pace and control a greater percentage of possession. But when Mexico did have opportunities on the counterattack, they simply couldn't properly execute, as Jorge Arangure of The New York Times noted:
Mexico looked their most dangerous off of set pieces, including Giovani Dos Santos' deep try in stoppage time that flew just over the bar, though Júlio César appeared to have it covered. But Mexico couldn't get the final touch needed on one of those attempts in the first half, and Brazil led 1-0 after the first 45.
Still, Mexico had to have been pleased at how they finished off the half after a rocky start, especially given that Brazil had just one touch in the attacking third after the 32nd minute, according to Bob Ley on ESPN's halftime show.
It looked as though Brazil again struck early on Neymar's free kick, as the ball deflected to Thiago Silva and the Paris Saint-Germain defender sent it into the back of the net in the 47th minute. The play was ruled offsides, however.
Hulk failed to capitalize on a huge opportunity in the 55th minute. He played a one-two with Neymar and the latter chipped a perfect pass over the Mexican defense, leaving Hulk alone on goal to the left of the box. But somehow, the brawny forward pushed his shot wide to the left.
It was a bad miss, as Michael Cummings of Bleacher Report noted:
A minute later, Neymar was at it again, this time streaming down the right side of the box and blasting a shot, though his effort skimmed across the face of the goal and went wide as well.
And he continued his active afternoon in the 65th minute, ripping a shot from the left side of the box that keeper Jose de Jesus Corona was able to get a hand on and deflect out of play for a corner.
Second-half substitute Pablo Barrera nearly made his mark in the 80th minute. After Dos Santos found him in space on the right flank, Barrera whipped in a dangerous cross. But Javier Hernandez just missed getting his foot on the pass and Brazil managed to knock the ball out of play for a corner before Mexico could equalize.
And much like he started the game with a bang, Neymar would finish it in style as well.
Taking the ball on the left flank, he deftly dribbled through two Mexican defenders into the box and sent a low cross to second-half substitute Jo, who put home Brazil's second goal.
It was another moment of pure genius from Neymar, who completely and utterly dominated this match.
Neymar, Brazil: A+
If you've been wondering what all the fuss was about, go back and watch this match.
Yes, the goal was spectacular, but it seemed that he also spearheaded every attack and threatening moment for Brazil. He showed off a dangerous left foot, which is scary because it's his weaker option, and the Mexican defense couldn't deal with his pace or pristine ball control.
The goal may have been beautiful, but his move to set up Jo's goal was astonishing. The always colorful Ray Hudson put it best:
Neymar owned this game, folks, and Brazilian fans will be hoping it is a sign of things to come at next year's World Cup.
Javier Hernandez, Mexico: C
He played, right?
Yes, but you couldn't always tell. According to Who Scored, he had just one shot and 18 total touches. While that isn't entirely his fault—his teammates didn't exactly give him support or find him in dangerous positions in or around the box—Hernandez must find a way to involve himself in the game.
Otherwise, Mexico will continue to struggle.
Giovani Dos Santos, Mexico: B+
Dos Santos looked dangerous playing behind Hernandez in this contest. He's clearly the creative spark on this Mexican team and always poses a threat on the counterattack. Like his teammates, he couldn't find the final pass or touch needed in this game, but he was one of the few bright spots for El Tri.
David Luiz, Brazil: B+
While Mexico looked the most threatening on set pieces, David Luiz was a force in the air throughout much of the contest, getting his head on several crosses and corners and generally providing the answer to Mexico's aerial questions. Bloody nose and all, Luiz was excellent in defense for Brazil in this one.
|Oscar (Off 62')||C|
|Hulk (Off 78')||C-|
|Fred (Off 82')||C+|
|Hernanes (On 62') ||B-|
|Lucas Moura (On 78)'||B-|
|Jo (On 82')||B+|
Brazil will face Italy in their final group game, though it may not matter if Italy beats or draws against Japan, which would send Brazil into the semifinals. Meanwhile, Mexico awaits Japan and will have to hope the Japanese side defeats Italy, which would technically keep El Tri alive for the knockout stage.