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Mexico draws with listless Brazil in World Cup

Neymar held in check
Neymar held in check
Photo by Miguel Tovar/Getty Images

Tuesday, in Fortaleza, Brazil, Mexico out-played Brazil and earned a just 0-0 draw with the tournament’s hosts and odds maker favorites.

The match was highly contested with enough fouls and rough play to stop the action regularly. Nevertheless, there were some opportunities, and mostly for Mexico, who took some great shots from mid and long range to test Julio Cesar. He reacted well making several saves but also watching some go by him that were just wide.

The one true scoring chance of the half was a great header by Neymar from the middle of the box toward the left post of Gillermo Ochoa’s goal. The goalkeeper dove to his right and just scooped the ball out of the goal. Goal line technology replays showed the ball had been partially on the line but definitely not in for a score. The ref seemed to know this and no pause was needed.

The half showed that Mexico is peaking at the right time and they are playing their best football in quite some time, at just the right time. We also got to see that Brazil cannot create without both Oscar and Neymar being on their games. Unfortunately for the Brazilian side Oscar was put into a left wing attacking position, to take on the injured Hulk’s role, and this limited his middle of the field creative contributions. Brazil coach Luis Felipe Scolari chose to leave Kaka, Robinho, Ronaldinho, and Pato, off his roster and today he paid the price.

The game settled into a strange rhythm where Mexico’s possessions were purposeful and led to good attacking opportunities while Brazil’s seemed tentative. Fred, whose lack of pace and mobility was underlined all half long, was caught off sides on four plays, negating the few well-worked opportunities his team had built. Neymar was all over the field attempting to make up for the team’s overall attacking deficiency but the Mexicans were up to the task of hounding him from sideline to sideline.

There are some warning signs that Turkish ref, Cuneyt Cakir, may not be up to the task of the professional fouls the teams were exchanging and Mexican coach, Miguel Herrera, was seen trying to argue his case when Dani Alves tried to manufacture a foul in response to the one Rafa Marquez had created against Fred in the previous play. He is going to have to keep a close eye on the tight tackling plays and the pulls on fast strikers by defensive midfielders, a very frequent occurrence so far.

The second half ended with a whimper as both teams had felt the heat and humidity long enough by then and were ready for a rest.

The second half began with a repeat performance by both teams even though Scolari realized he needed to move Oscar to a more central position he did so at the expense of taking Ramires out of the game and the midfield recuperation efforts failed miserably allowing Mexico to take control of the game. Scolari then decided to bring Willian in at the 83rd minute but did so at the expense of his only playmaker, Oscar. The coach also substituted Jo for Fred and found that did not work either.

At the 85th minute the second big scoring chance of the game, a Tiago Silva header from inside the goalie’s box, found Ochoa in perfect position to make a point blank left handed save.

The match only had two other occurrences of note. First, the ref warned Herrera for his game-long harangue and second, Raul Ramirez had a shot on goal at the 90th minute that required a solid diving save by Cesar.

The game concluded with the Mexicans hugging and celebrating, Neymar, with a disgusted look, leading his team off the field, and Scolari and Herrera sharing an embrace that was more shared relief than anything else.

This draw leaves Mexico and Brazil with four points with Croatia needing two wins to progress while Mexico and Brazil can afford draws to move on to the Group of 16.

In other action earlier today Belgium came from behind to beat Algeria 2-1 with two goals in ten minutes, from the 70th to the 80th.