For the first time in thirty-two years, Mexico will look to advance from the round of 16 as they face arguably the outright favourites to win the World Cup, Brazil. Mexico started their campaign out wonderfully but fell to Sweden 3-0 on the final game which ensured the Swedes of a matchup with Switzerland, as opposed to facing Neymar and company. Yet, Mexico has shown signs of real class as we look at three deciding factors that will determine El Tri’s fate.
For such a strong start to the World Cup, Mexico’s loss to Sweden was a surprise to many. Juan Carlos Osorio left an unchanged lineup, the atmosphere was as good as ever, and it just felt right that this could be Mexico’s time. But, the Swedes thought differently. Despite the poor performance and result, Mexico needs to regain the mojo they had just a few days prior in a brilliant performance against reigning champions Germany, and despite the close scoreline, a very comfortable win against a solid South Korea side.
Mexico needs to stay true to their system of possession, build up play. If playmakers like Carlos Vela and Hirving Lozano can get the ball on the wing and do what they did against Germany, there is no reason Mexico shouldn’t find goals against an arguably weaker back line in Brazil. But the biggest feat is even before the game: find the rhythm and confidence that was evident from their first two matches.
Doing The Dirty Work
It is no secret that Brazil has firepower in the attack. Headlined by a superstar, with other stars as a supporting cast, the Mexican backline will be busy for at least the full ninety. Thus the importance of defending as a unit and knowing when to pack it in for a few and ease the pressure. Not only will the back four have to do their job and then some, the likely midfield pairing of Andres Guardado and Hector Herrera will really need to embrace a box to box role throughout the match as Brazil have become one of the most threatening counter-attacking teams in the tournament. The reality is Mexico will have their opportunities, but against an absolute world class side like Brazil, to win will take an almost flawless game in every aspect, not just one.
Exposing the Few Flaws
Lastly, Brazil are not perfect either, and there are clear flaws to show. In regards to team news, key men Douglas Costa and Marcelo are both likely to miss the match due to injury which somewhat makes up for Mexico’s loss of Hector Moreno. Now, even more, should Mexico use their press to limit the space that Brazil can manoeuvre in. Nonetheless, A Seleção could use the press to their advantage if the first line is beat and balls to Neymar are easily found.
But what Brazil somewhat lacks in is midfield dominance. City star Fernandinho usually has a grip on the midfield, but if Chicarito can be a nuisance, the midfield battle will be 2 v 1 with Paulinho the sole pivot alongside his defensive-minded counterpart. This could open up space for not only Hector Herrera and Guardado, but whoever finds themselves in the 10 role. Mexico must play smart and with tempo, to catch Brazil off guard as the possession battle is crucial and having the ball will be a commodity.
What this match will come down to is matchups and which side wins them. Mexico are in for a battle, but a good performance may be all it takes to overthrow a very powerful side in Brazil. No matter what, expect a good game full of flair, skill, and passion.
Image used: Embed from Getty Images