FIFA World Cup

Neymar and Brazil Will Cut Mexico's Chances of Qualifying from World Cup Group A

Buda Mendes/Getty Images
Karl MatchettFeatured ColumnistJune 17, 2014

The big game of Group A will take place on Tuesday, with Brazil hosting Mexico at the Estadio Castelao in Fortaleza.

Both nations picked up three points in their opening games, with the South American hosts beating Croatia 3-1 and the CONCACAF qualifiers seeing off Cameroon 1-0. A second consecutive win for either side would all but seal passage to the knockout stages.

Mexico have managed to reach the last 16 in the last five World Cup tournaments, but they face a real battle to continue that run in making the top two ahead of Croatia this time around.

A positive result against Brazil would go a long way to helping them achieve that aim, but Brazil have too much for them and should be able to exploit the weaknesses seen in Mexico's first match. 

 

Lack of Central Threat

Against Cameroon, Mexico were largely comfortable, dominating possession and able to shift the ball into the channels, overloading their African opponents whenever possible.

Jose Juan Vazquez controlled play in front of the back three with the endless running of Hector Herrera beside him proving a good shield and a reliable out-ball. Andres Guardado, the other part of the three-man centre, was off his game, wasting passes at times. But he similarly offers athleticism and the ability to switch positions momentarily with wing-back Miguel Layun.

NATAL, BRAZIL - JUNE 13: Enoh Eyong of Cameroon challenges Jose Juan Vazquez of Mexico in the first half during the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Group A match between Mexico and Cameroon at Estadio das Dunas on June 13, 2014 in Natal, Brazil.  (Photo by Mig
Miguel Tovar/Getty Images

What Mexico didn't have to deal with was any kind of threat from Cameroon through that centre; Eyong Enoh was woeful on the ball, and Alex Song and Stephane Mbia were not much better.

There was nobody dribbling at the three-man defence, no runners from deep looking to arrive late in the box and not much in the way of support behind a lone striker, Samuel Eto'o.

That will absolutely change against Brazil, who are expected to field Neymar in the No. 10 role once more. He will look to pick up possession beside or beyond Vazquez and commit Mexico's back three.

SAO PAULO, BRAZIL - JUNE 12:  Neymar of Brazil runs with the ball during the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Group A match between Brazil and Croatia at Arena de Sao Paulo on June 12, 2014 in Sao Paulo, Brazil.  (Photo by Buda Mendes/Getty Images)
Buda Mendes/Getty Images

With Paulinho (or Hernanes) breaking from midfield at times and Oscar capable of drifting in from the flank, there will be a far bigger tactical threat for Mexico to try and deal with, even without taking the increase in quality into account.

 

Behind the Wing-Backs

One area Cameroon would have been expected to exploit Mexico in was down the flanks, with Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting in particular a pacy threat down the left. Due in part to their all-round irrelevance in the game, Cameroon didn't really do that.

Brazil, however, will very much be capable of shifting the ball forward quickly down the channels and could really make Mexico suffer in this way. That's even more the case if Mexico take the risk of pushing their wing-backs on as they did in the first game in an attempt to press back Dani Alves and Marcelo.

SAO PAULO, BRAZIL - JUNE 11: Manger Luiz Felipe Scolari of Brazil speaks as Willian looks on during a Brazil training session ahead of the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil opening match against Croatia at Arena de Sao Paulo on June 11, 2014 in Sao Paulo, Brazil
Warren Little/Getty Images

If Ramires or Willian start from the right flank in the absence of Hulk, they will look to draw the centre-backs over before playing smart passes centrally, where Fred or Neymar will hope to find space between the three as they tilt.

Oscar can run directly down the wings or dangerously drift infield, potentially creating a three-on-three situation between the Mexico penalty area and the centre circle.

In both instances, fast transitions and powerful runs in behind Mexico's wing-backs will be key, and there are few teams more suited to doing that than this Brazil side. 

 

Clinical Edge

Mexico won 1-0 against Cameroon, but it took a rebound falling to Oribe Peralta to open the scoring. They created some chances and should certainly have taken the lead earlier if not for some wasteful finishing and good goalkeeping.

NATAL, BRAZIL - JUNE 13:  Oribe Peralta of Mexico shoots and scores a goal past goalkeeper Charles Itandje of Cameroon in the second half during the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Group A match between Mexico and Cameroon at Estadio das Dunas on June 13, 2014
Miguel Tovar/Getty Images

Brazil weren't at their best against Croatia and perhaps had a helping hand in their goals from some dodgy officiating, but there can be little doubt that the squad has goals throughout it.

It could be a cagey game at times, though this would go entirely against the grain of the World Cup. When chances fall in either penalty area, Brazil certainly have the players who look more capable of finishing half-chances. Mexico, in contrast, have lacked a killer edge in front of goal.

Brazil will be favourites anyway, but a big defeat here could spell real danger for Mexico's qualification hopes with a tough, likely winner-take-all game against Croatia to come.

 

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