Five-time world champion Brazil will be looking to bury the memories of their last World Cup at home when they face Mexico in the last 16 of the 2018 Fifa World Cup in Samara, Russia Monday.
Both the teams have experienced contrasting fortunes en route to the Round of 16. The Selecao started the tournament in unconvincing fashion, drawing 1-1 against Switzerland before securing a last-gasp win over Costa Rica. However, a dominant 2-0 win against Serbia, thanks to goals from Paulinho and Thiago Silva, sealed top spot for Brazil in Group E.
On the other hand, El Tri began their World Cup mission in scintillating manner, stunning reigning champion Germany 1-0, courtesy a brilliant solo goal by Hirving Lozano. They then beat South Korea 2-1, thanks to a Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez goal and a penalty by Carlos Vela. But a 3-0 drubbing at the hands of Sweden in their last Group F match saw the Mexicans finish as group runners-up.
Brazil’s defence have given a great account of themselves in recent times, conceding just three goals in their last 14 games. For a team whose defence go for attacks through the wings frequently in order to support the likes of Neymar, Gabriel Jesus, Willian and Philippe Coutinho, this is an impressive record.
Good news for the Selecao is Neymar’s return to form. The PSG superstar assisted Silva against Serbia, and scored against Costa Rica in their previous game. Neymar has now been directly involved in 19 goals in his 18 appearances for Brazil, featuring 10 goals and nine assists. In total, the former Barcelona footballer had a hand in 90 goals in 88 appearances for Brazil, scoring 56 and assisting 34.
The Brazil coaching staff confirmed in the press conference that Neymar is evolving very quickly in Selecao colours and is already at his maximum level of performance.
Despite Brazil boasting several superstars in their side, all the focus will be on Barca starlet Coutinho, who has been outstanding in this World Cup. Whereas his other teammates have struggled, Coutinho has been a breath of fresh air with his two goals in three matches.
There was some good news in the Brazil camp ahead of the game. Marcelo, who was forced to leave the field early against Serbia, is back in training. But in the pre-match press conference, Brazil manager Tite and his assistant said since the Real Madrid left-back did not appear 100% match-fit in training in the last five days, they are not going to risk him, bearing in mind that their last 16 clash might be played over a duration of 120 minutes amid hot conditions and high humidity.
So Filipe Luis is likely to start the game. Also, Danilo has recovered faster than expected while Douglas Costa is also making progress.
Casemiro attended the presser before the game. He said, “We may lose. That's football. But I can guarantee that, even if this happens, Brazil will go out playing the best game. We are prepared to play a great game."
Mexico captain Andres Guardado has a message for VAR officials ahead of Brazil clash. pic.twitter.com/DopzXudaJO— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) June 30, 2018
Mexico met the Selecao in the 1950 World Cup when the former were thrashed by host nation Brazil in front of 80, 000 spectators at the Maracana. Brazil have an outstanding defensive record against Mexico. The Selecao are yet to concede any goal in their four previous World Cup matches, while scoring 11 times.
Against all odds, Mexico will try their best to break their Round of 16 hoodoo.
Goalkeeper Alfredo Talavera said, “Many times we have played Brazil in official matches and we've done very well. We respect them but we will play to our best and we will be up to the task. We can't remain in the past, we've played well against them but that won't be enough."