Key Battles That Will Shape Brazil's Clash with Mexico
Brazil face Mexico in their second World Cup group-stage fixture on Tuesday with the Selecao bandwagon moving on to Fortaleza in search of another victory.
Having started with a win over a strong Croatia side, albeit aided by the referee, Luiz Felipe Scolari's side would nigh-on secure a berth in the knockout rounds with success. That said, the same applies to Mexico following their own victory over Cameroon on Friday.
El Tri have proved difficult opponents for Brazil over the past couple of years, memorably clinching victory in the final of the London 2012 Olympics when many of those who will play this week were present.
Where, then, will the tie in Brazil's northeast be won and lost on this occasion?
Oribe Peralta vs. Thiago Silva
With 13 international goals to his name in the past 12 months alone and a one in two overall strike rate for his country, 30-year-old Oribe Peralta is currently one of international football's outstanding centre-forwards.
So prolific has he been for his country that his inclusion in El Tri's starting lineup ahead of Manchester United's Javier Hernandez is no longer questioned, and indeed, it was he who scored to help Mexico to a 1-0 opening win over Cameroon.
On Tuesday, though, he will encounter the best central defender in world football in the shape of Paris Saint-Germain's Thiago Silva, and it will be up to Peralta to show that he can continue to threaten against a top-level international side.
Miguel Layun vs. Dani Alves
Playing as left wing-back in Mexico's 3-5-2 setup, 25-year-old Miguel Layun was one of El Tri's standout players in their clash against Cameroon, providing a consistent threat from the flank.
That performance was aided by a very defensive Cameroon strategy that saw him seldom tested when out of possession. Against Brazil, he will not be afforded that luxury.
Willian is likely to start wide right for Brazil, but it is attacking full-back Dani Alves who is likely to be locked in somewhat of an individual battle with Layun.
Alves, while experienced, has disappointed in his past two outings for his country and shown defensive frailty. Going forward, though, he remains one of the best attacking full-backs in the game.
Jose Juan Vazquez vs. Oscar
Brazil's attacking playmaker Oscar stole the show for his side against Croatia, and in order to combat Mexico's midfield-heavy formation, he will likely be restored to a central billing this time around.
Key to his role will be limiting the influence of Jose Juan Vazquez at the base of the Mexican midfield, with the Leon player key to keeping play ticking over for his side. Against Cameroon, he was given time and space from which to control proceedings.
This time around, though, he will need to make do with far more limited glimpses of the ball and also the attentions of Oscar.
Besides his intelligence with the ball, Oscar has proven excellent at suffocating opponents with his ability to press high up the pitch and will likely be tasked with doing so once more on Tuesday.
Paul Aguilar vs. Marcelo
Control of the flanks in the encounter could prove key to the eventual result, and Brazil will feel confident of achieving success in targeting Mexican right wing-back Paul Aguilar.
While experienced, the 28-year-old is prone to having off days and can be seen as a weak link for the Mexico side. Up against Marcelo, he faces one of the best in the game on this occasion.
The Brazilian will fancy his chances of opening up Mexico on the overlap, and if the Selecao are to switch back to their familiar 4-2-3-1 setup, he and Neymar could overload Aguilar on a regular basis.
The Mexican will be dependent on support from teammates in dealing with Marcelo as an attacking threat. If it is lacking, he could be in for a very long night.
Giovani dos Santos vs. Neymar
While not a direct positional battle, the performance of the two side's most creative and destructive attacking players will go a long way to settling the encounter.
For Mexico, that means Giovani dos Santos who, besides setting up his side's solitary goal in round 1 of matches also saw two legitimate strikes ruled out for offside.
In Brazilian colours, meanwhile, that man will be Neymar—scorer of two goals on his World Cup debut on Thursday.
The duo are inspirational for their respective teams, and when they play well, they invariably lead their colleagues to a positive result.
Giovani will be up against it with Brazil expected to control the game, but he is perhaps the one Mexican player who could single-handedly alter the balance of the tie.
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