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Neymar steers Brazil into quarters

  • Published at 10:56 pm July 2nd, 2018
  • Last updated at 12:14 am July 3rd, 2018
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Brazil's Neymar scores during their World Cup last 16 clash against Mexico in Samara Monday Reuters

Neymar put in a much-improved display, compared to the group stage matches, as Brazil powered past Mexico 2-0 in their 2018 Fifa World Cup last 16 clash in Samara Monday. The PSG sensation scored a goal and set up the other for Roberto Firmino as the Selecao sailed to the quarters.

Brazil manager Tite started with Filipe Luis after confirming earlier that Marcelo would miss the game. On the other hand, El Tri structured their combination in attacking fashion, giving their veteran campaigner Rafael Marquez a start in a 4-3-3 formation. In the process, Marquez made history becoming the first player in the history of the greatest show on earth to feature in the starting XI in five different World Cup finals.

The game was a tale of two halves as Mexico dominated the first, creating more chances, while Brazil gave a much better account of themselves after the break. Neymar opened the scoring in the 51st minute before Firmino made it 2-0 in the 88th minute.

Mexico though started as the brighter of the two sides. In the second minute of the game, Andres Guardado chipped a dangerous ball from the left flank into the Brazilian box. A punch by Allison saw the ball land at the feet of Hirving Lozano. The attempt from the goal-scorer in their opening match against current champion Germany was well blocked by the defender.

El Tri were in all-attacking mode but in the fifth minute, Brazil got a chance themselves when a powerful hit from Neymar from outside the box went straight into the hands of goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa, who deflected it out of danger.

Four minutes later, Carlos Vela, who started the game on the left wing, slalomed into the Brazil area but his effort went out for a corner instead. Vela was a real threat for the Brazil defence from start to end.

In the 13th minute, Brazil cleared a dangerous Vela cross without any harm done. Two minutes later, Lozano sent a delicious low cross but Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez missed in front of goal. Some wonderful combinations by the Mexican midfield then paved the way for a few attacks in the Brazil area. 

Mexico gave some space to Neymar inside the left box in the 25th minute and the PSG man dribbled past two defenders but Ochoa made himself big in front of goal. Minutes later, an attempt at goal by Gabriel Jesus was blocked by Hugo Ayala. The resulting ball landed at the feet of Philippe Coutinho, who shot over the bar. Edson Alvarez then blocked Neymar on the right side before a low cross from Willian from the right was saved by Ochoa.

Referee Gianluca Rocchi whistled for the half-time break at exactly the 45-minute mark as the two teams headed for their respective dressing rooms with the score locked at 0-0. Though Mexico played well before the break, Brazil started to get into the game just after resumption. 

Coutinho unleashed a dangerous shot from the edge of the box but his shot was saved by a nervous Ochoa.

A good period of attacking play then resulted in the Selecao bagging the much-awaited goal in the 51st minute. A sliding Neymar thumped home after a Willian pass. The 41, 970 crowd was divided into contrasting emotions after the goal. While Brazil fans were celebrating wildly, the El Tri fans were egging their players to come back to the game. The goal somewhat changed the momentum of the game as Brazil started playing attacking football and Mexico opted for counterattacks. 

Eight minutes later, Paulinho found himself free with the ball on the edge of the box but his shot went straight to Ochoa. On a counter attack in the 61st minute, Lozano shot from outside the box. His shot got blocked and Vela’s powerful attempt was deflected by Allison for a corner. 

Minutes later, Willian’s shot from the right flank inside the box was saved by the Mexican keeper.

There was more drama on the pitch at the 70-minute mark when Neymar fell just on the edge of the Brazil dugout. After Mexican defender Miguel Layun grabbed his leg, the situation only got worse. But the Italian referee controlled the situation well.

Substitute Roberto Firmino scored the second goal in the dying moments to seal the game for Brazil. Two minutes before the end of stipulated time Neymar ran with the ball from the left side and his attempt was deflected intentionally by Ochoa. But it created an opening in front of the net for Firmino. The Liverpool lad did not miss the target as he tapped in to make it 2-0.