By Andrew Collins
BRAZIL v MEXICO (Group A)
FINAL SCORE: BRAZIL – 0, MEXICO – 0
Expectations were high – a thousand Brazilian banners flying and a riot of colour in the stand. The Fortaleza’s Castelao Stadium was packed to capacity for Brazil’s second match of the tournament – their opponents Mexico. The Central-American fans reclaimed the sombero as costume of choice, (though not with cheesy moustache or jalepeno this time) and were there in no small numbers either.
Brazil fielded the usual suspects: Alves, Silva, Liuz, Marcelo, Fred, Neymar, Oscar, Ramires and Gustavo, whilst Mexico laid on a more defensive lot with Rodriguez, Marquez, Moreno, Aguilar and Layun holding the back. The host nation belted out a superb national anthem which really added to the hot, humid and exuberant atmosphere. But would it help them beat the ‘stone in the shoe’ as one commentator quipped about Mexico? Given that they had won 7 out of the last 13 bouts with Brazil, it wasn’t going to be easy.
It was a volatile and very physical first half, lots of contact between the players and a clutch of fouls in the first minute alone. Mexico were clearly up for sticking it to their opponents. Brazil got one in of their own, but no cards given yet. Perhaps the referee expected all this.
Mexico soon showed their fortitude and composure as they easily soaked up Brazilian runs from Oscar and Neymar. They kept trying to create chances, but the football never flowed as you would expect- an iron clad defence barring their way every time. Mexico’s Peralta fought his way into the Brazil box, but was clumsily bought down by Marcelo and Luiz. Still no action from the referee. Herrera bolted one at goal, but was denied by the keeper.
Brazil had a great chance in the 24th minute from a Neymar header, but an excellent save from who would turn out to be Mexico’s man of the match, goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa, kept the score line at zero.
The game became somewhat lacklustre, Mexico never allowing Brazil to get up to speed or play out any set pieces. Silva had a go in the 42nd minute but once again Ochoa kept it out. It was all quite messy. Judging by play, I fancied Mexico to score first. Brazil just never came alive, and compounded their lack of achievement by getting a yellow card in the 43rd minute (Ramires).
A frenetic and peculiarly convulsive first half, with neither team managing to get one in the net.
Scolari decides to swap Ramires for Bernard to open the second half, possibly because of the former’s yellow card. Brazil really needed to pick up speed if they were to crack a formidable Mexican back line and maybe Bernard could provide it. The fouls come piling on quickly yet again, game play still antsy and charged.
The pace picked up in the 52nd minute with Mexico attacking well. Peralta, Vasquez and Dos Santos put shots in but none on target. Cracks began to show in the Brazilian defence, frustration mounts, Scolari, the Brazilian coach, is seen to mouth ‘Porra!’, about as crude an expletive as there is in Portuguese. Indeed, some of the home fans start booing their team, surely not helping morale down on the pitch.
Tackling gets more misjudged and hectic – Vasquez picks up another yellow for Mexico. Brazil finally get a good chance to put a shine on the dull score line with a free kick in the 62nd minute. Neymar takes, but it goes wide. They finally pick up the pace with good breaks by Oscar and Luiz. Neymar again gets a shot off, but the Mexican goalkeeper is impervious. He’s decided nothing is getting past him this evening and is just superb throughout.
The last ten minutes proved very tense for both the teams and the crowd – the game’s twilight hour had approached and the sun was fast setting. Brazil got desperate, whilst Mexico remained defiant to the last. Last minute changes for Brazil could not up their performance. Although they did get some great chances, the impermeable Mexican goal face remained intact at the awesome hands (and knees) of Ochoa. It just wasn’t going to happen, even with three extra minutes added.
The second nil-nil result of the tournament (the first being Iran v Nigeria). Disappointing, surprising and awkward. Both teams gave gutsy, albeit staccato performances, but Mexico came out stronger on balance.