While restricting access to Neymar and Oscar, Mexico began to make inroads at the defence of the hosts with Peralta and Giovani Dos Santos complimenting Herrera’s efforts in midfield. Initially, the duo were subdued by the brutal force of the Brazilian trio in the middle of the park. Mexico changed from donating possession cheaply to using the width effectively by stretching the midfield wall of Gustavo, Paulinho and Ramires to access the central defence and create a real threat to Brazil.
Brazil tried to mark all the players tight at the starting positions forcing long balls from the goalkeeper and defenders. It was a match that needed a one big player moment. In fact, it turned out that the Mexico goalkeeper was responsible for the goalless first have with a couple of out-of-this-world saves. The match turned from being a combative midfield warfare to a Ping-Pong of attacks around the 23rd minute, as both teams provided a box to box action of top quality.
There was more offensive action in the second half, Mexico employing a shoot at sight policy, shooting to kill. They had better midfield exchanges and a better attacking plan through the middle. It seemed the half-time removal of Ramires shifted the initiative to Mexico. Filipe Scolari needed a full complement of personnel committed to the combative requirements of the duel. The Chelsea man would have been a liability after picking a first-half yellow card. The benefit pf his replacement, Bernard, were never felt as the midfield lost grip of the preparation zone. Willian or Fernandinho could have been better options.
The five-time Fifa World Cup champions introduced Joe in place of the ineffective Fred. They turned on the screw a little around the 65th minute and began to have a say in the goings on of the fixture. Mexico began to panic and backtracked. They showed cracks and were caught in sixes and sevens all of a sudden. Brazil played long diagonal ball, which the Mexicans were not comfortable with. Oscar played in a more central role and became far more effective.
The was going to be a great moment of the match, probably of the tournament, the Ochoa save from a brilliant free header after a free kick from Neymar. It was cheaply given away when Thiago Silva was doubled upon at the left-flank when he seemed to be going no way; the kind of free kick you do not give away at that position of the pitch at that point of the match when you have that kind of result and you play that kind of team, especially with that kind of result.
The delivery was perfect, but the Mexican marking was almost tragic as they let a Thiago free header. To their credit, they reacted first to the second ball after the reflex save from the goalkeeper. They quickly launched a counter-attack that produced Julio Cesar’s best save of the tournament so far.
Brazil played such an unconvincing game pouring water on the hopes of their faithful followers and the neutrals who now question their invincibility. That big moment player did not turn up and maybe Brazil without Neymar are as good as any other in their group, or was it the incredible Mexican execution of tactics? Could it be they are over-rated?