Brazil vs. Mexico: Winners and Losers from International Friendly
In their penultimate friendly prior to their Copa America opener, Brazil saw off Mexico in a comfortable 2-0 win in Sao Paolo on Sunday. Goals from Philippe Coutinho and Diego Tardelli ended the visitors' initially bright resistance in an entertaining first half.
The game petered out after the interval, as managers Dunga and Miguel Herrera made a number of rhythm-disrupting changes. For the latter, it was his final opportunity to take a look at his squad ahead of their tournament opener against Bolivia in Saturday.
Read on for the winners and losers from Sunday's international friendly clash.
Winner: Philippe Coutinho
"It is a great opportunity for me and I am very happy to be called up for the Copa," Philippe Coutinho said of his impending maiden international experience to Liverpool's official magazine (via the Liverpool Echo's Andy Kelly). "Like every child, I dreamt of being selected for the national team and I hope that I will be able to make a contribution to the team’s success in the tournament."
Though Brazil's participation in the Copa America does not begin until next Sunday, the glimpses Coutinho showed in his country's defeat of Mexico suggests he is primed to make his desired impact.
At the centre of many of his side's best passages of play, he will hope to be more influential so far as creating for his team-mates. But if the brilliance of his goal (his first for Brazil) is a sign, he should not be too far off from finding that comprehensive form.
Picked out by Filipe Luis entering the Mexico penalty area, Coutinho deftly turned his marker without touching the ball. Then, taking it on, he used goalkeeper Jose Corona's dive intended to stop a cross as a marker, placing it past him into the net through the only slot available.
Loser: Jesus Corona
Jesus "Tecatito" Corona started as he meant to go on.
Six minutes into the match, he delightfully weaved his way in from the left flank, finding Raul Jimenez just inside the box. The striker could not control the ball, but it was an early warning sign for Brazil.
David Luiz hacked him down out left soon after, and it felt like Tecatito might be the man to do something for Mexico. Alas, after a dipping half-volley in the 21st minute forced a save from Jefferson, the Twente attacker's influence drastically decreased.
Only 22, Corona alone cannot be expected to take Mexico anywhere in the Copa America. But it is safe to say the quick, deceptive attacker is their best hope in this group of players of causing the tournament's better opponents any real problems.
If they cannot find a way to get him on the ball as often as possible, it is difficult to see where they will find goals.
Winner: Diego Tardelli
Like Coutinho, striker Diego Tardelli is another player benefiting from the change in regime in the Brazil setup.
Manager Dunga has others he can call upon in attack—Roberto Firmino and the absent Champions League winner Neymar among them—but Tardelli is making the most of the opportunities handed him.
Now at Shandong Luneng, the 30-year-old scored twice in October's win over rivals Argentina. Against Mexico, he got about as deep as the visitors' half in search of the ball while trying to kick Brazil into gear. Crucially, he was on hand in the box to tuck away what proved to be the match-sealing goal following good work from Fred.
A test of Tardelli's tournament credentials now awaits.
Loser: Miguel Herrera
Mexico boss Herrera brought what is essentially a "B" squad to the Copa America, with stars such as Javier Hernandez and Giovani dos Santos left for the Gold Cup.
They gave a decent account of themselves against Brazil, defending well early on and continuing to attempt to test Jefferson's goal even as the game slipped away.
Brazil were never required to fully exert themselves, though, and Herrera knows his team needs to show plenty more heart if they are to get anywhere in the Copa.
The way his five-man defence switched off for Tardelli's goal will be of particular concern. He was given far too much space, while Fred was easily allowed to keep hold of the ball in the buildup.
Indeed, without more forcefulness all over, this could be a short trip for Mexico.
Since taking over for his second spell in charge following last summer's World Cup, Dunga has now led the Selecao to nine wins in a row.
Mexico did not provide a particularly exacting test ahead of the Copa America, nor are Honduras likely to in their final warm-up match. But the 1994 World Cup winner has to be reasonably satisfied with the direction of his team.
As has been the case against tougher opposition such as Argentina and France, Brazil did enough to see off Mexico from an attacking perspective. They also defended sturdily, if at times a little too last-ditch, keeping out El Tri.
Miranda was especially dominant, though there was good work from his central defensive partner, David Luiz, as well as Fernandinho and Elias dropping deep from midfield.
Dunga will know tougher tests are to come if they are to improve on their quarter-final place at the 2011 Copa America. But he has little to be unhappy about so far in the buildup.