Brazil have a long and not always illustrious history with Mexico: No country has beaten them more times in history than El Tri.
Even recently, the Mexicans have found a way to frustrate and occasionally vanquish the Selecao, beating them in the final of the 2012 Olympic Games and pushing them hard in last year's Confederations Cup.
That game, an eventual 2-0 win for Brazil, took place in Fortaleza, the venue for Tuesday's latest meeting between the two unlikely rivals. On this occasion, it was the goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa who stole the show, making a number of impressive reaction saves to preserve a 0-0 draw.
The result was disappointing for Brazil, who effectively squandered a chance to qualify for the knockout rounds by failing to win. Then again, a point in their final game against Cameroon figures to be enough to see them home (although they would prefer to top the group as well).
"In my opinion, the team played at least 10% better [than in the opening victory over Croatia]," said coach Luiz Felipe Scolari, per the BBC. "They had a very good goalkeeper who had a very good day and that's why we didn't win."
Brazil is a country that loves its cup competitions—half its domestic calendar is dedicated to them, while the Copa Libertadores (the South American Champions League) is the pinnacle for club sides. Fans know that in such events, it is not about how you start but how you finish, and incremental progress is better than burning out too soon.
That is what Scolari was hinting at, although neutral fans might rightfully wonder whether this Brazil side is a deserving heir to the previous five World Cup-winning squads. Occasionally open in defence and lacking in real imagination and verve in attack, Mexico gave other sides in the competition every reason to be confident of victory should they meet the Selecao in the knockout rounds.
That might change, however, if Scolari keeps getting gradual improvements from his squad.
"The team is doing better and better," he concluded. "We still have a way to go and we can play well. I was pretty happy with what I saw on the pitch."
Results in Brief—Day Six
Belgium 2-1 Algeria
(Fellaini, Mertens; Feghouli)
Brazil 0-0 Mexico
Russia 1-1 South Korea
(Kerzhakov; Lee K-h)
1. Notes from Day Six
Six days, 32 sides watched... With Russia's 1-1 draw with South Korea in the books, all 32 countries have now played at least one game in this World Cup. It has been a generally enthralling start to the action, although one that has offered frustratingly few clues for those hoping to guess in advance who might win the tournament. Brazil have underwhelmed (twice), as have Argentina, while Spain were thumped. Germany and Netherlands would seem to be the fastest starters, but can they maintain the pace?
Fastest gun in the West... Is there a quicker player at this tournament than Divock Origi? The 19-year-old Belgian came on as a substitute against Algeria and proceeded to catch the eye time and time again with his blistering pace down the flanks.
The teenager even used that pace to good effect in the end, dragging his marker into the middle to allow Dries Mertens the space and time to fire home the winner. Cristiano Ronaldo, Antonio Valencia and others watch out—there's a new speedster in town.
Is Capello cursed?... Four years ago, a huge goalkeeping error cost a Fabio Capello-coached England victory over the United States in their opening group game. This time around, Igor Akinfeev played the Rob Green role, as Russia could only draw with South Korea. Capello must wonder if he is cursed...
2. Quote of the Day
You may not be happy. The result is what counts. We had six opportunities and they were given one, full stop. I should congratulate the players for their mentality.
—Belgium coach Marc Wilmots, per The Guardian
Many casual fans have tipped Belgium to make a big impact on this tournament, a prediction that was hardly fulfilled in a stumbling first win against Algeria. Wilmots, however, is not going to take criticism for winning his country's first World Cup match in 12 years. Quite right.
3. Tweet of the Day
“Oh God, we’re awful. We’re getting beaten by Algeria. I’ve never been so humiliate..OH MY GOD, I’M ON TV! YAY! I’M ON TV!"— Iain Macintosh (@iainmacintosh) June 17, 2014
If Russia loses this game expect them to annex it illegally in a few decades— Bobby Big Wheel (@BobbyBigWheel) June 17, 2014
Me when Ochoa saved Neymar's header. pic.twitter.com/A7EXx812zK— Seleção Brasileira (@BrazilStats) June 17, 2014
4. Goal of the Day
In a far weaker field of candidates than we have become accustomed to so far in this World Cup, Belgium's winner takes the prize almost by default: a quick breakaway and an emphatic finish from Dries Mertens.
5. A good day for...
Guillermo Ochoa. If you are a recently released free agent, nothing does more for your value in the market than a brilliant performance in the World Cup. After departing Ajaccio at the end of the season, Ochoa kept Brazil at bay on Wednesday, impressing millions of fans—and no doubt a few managers and sporting directors—with his point-blank reflexes and command of his box.
At 28, he should just be entering his prime as a goalkeeper. That he is even a free agent should perhaps be a cause for concern, but his performance on Tuesday may just have added a few zeroes to his next contract offer.
6. A bad day for...
Igor Akinfeev. The Russian No. 1, almost a year Ochoa's junior, experienced the other side of the World Cup experience on Tuesday, as he produced a truly horrific goalkeeping blunder to put his side 1-0 down against South Korea. Lee Keun-ho's shot appeared to be straight at the CSKA Moscow veteran, but he took his eye off the ball and only managed to flap it straight into his own net.
It was the most significant of a series of handling errors from the anti-Ochoa, who looked absolutely disconsolate in the aftermath of his error. And can you blame him?
7. Wednesday's Schedule
Australia vs. Netherlands (Group B: 5 p.m. BST/12 p.m. ET)
Netherlands produced the most emphatic result of the first round of group matches, a 5-1 victory over holders Spain that effectively leaves them just one point away from progression to the next round. That should come against Australia—who were dogged and determined in their opening loss to Chile but clearly lack the quality required to survive at this level.
Spain vs. Chile (Group B: 8 p.m. BST/3 p.m. ET)
A hugely significant contest in Group B and perhaps the World Cup as a whole. Spain must win if they want to reach the knockout stages, yet Chile have the same attacking attributes that Netherlands used to such great effect in the opener. Still, Vicente del Bosque's side will surely have too much pride to go down in this one.
Cameroon vs. Croatia (Group A: 11 p.m. BST/6 p.m. ET)
The draw between Mexico and Brazil means both of these sides know they really must win this game if they want to even think about reaching the last 16. Croatia have more reason to be confident—they face Mexico in their last game—and should win this one if all their players perform to their best. But Cameroon, released from the cautious approach that ultimately cost them against Mexico, may be a different proposition.