Opening matches have been dealt with, and won. While Brazil were quite shaky off the blocks and needed the referee and some quite sub-standard goalkeeping to get past Croatia, Mexico had a more comfortable victory against Cameroon.
The Brazilian back-four looked extremely shaky and could do with a much more solid display tonight. They struggled against the constant pressing of Ivica Olic and Nikica Jelavic, and it’ll be foolhardy to expect Gio Dos Santos and Oribe Peralta to not attempt the same tonight. Javier Hernandez, after having a stellar scoring record for El Tri, was surprisingly benched for the opener. Though a three-man attack might be too bold a move to expect from Miguel Herrera, it’d be really surprising if Chicharito doesn’t get involved early in the second half. Should the Selecao manage to clear their lines properly, central-midfield might be a one-sided affair if Mexico decide to field a similar formation as against Cameroon.
Miguel Herrara likes playing an interesting and rather bold 5-1-2-2 with Jose Vasquez the only defense-minded player in central-midfield. Oscar and Neymar both like to drop deep for the ball before going forward, which could see the Mexican midfield getting outnumbered, especially with Paulinho and Luis Gustavo playing above the back four. Andres Guardado and Hector Herrera are both wide players, who surely put in defensive effort, but seldom tuck into the centre of the pitch to stifle teams. Besides, they’ll have the marauding Dani Alves and Marcelo to deal with, anyway. Even though they have extra men in defense, they’d know better than affording the full backs enough space to bring the attacking midfielders/forwards in behind the lines.
Neymar and Oscar have both eased into the World Cup after the opener. Bright performances and goals aside, they seem to have absorbed the pressure of a World Cup at home extremely well and would be raring to go. They’ll be feeling a lot lighter and could well be operating at full tilt tonight, which could be a sight to behold should it happen. Scolari would be expected to field the same lineup as in the opener with Luis Gustavo protecting the defense and Paulinho attempting an impression of Lothar Mattheus. Fred is quite often the elephant in the room with his lack of pace and panache, unless he’s given the time and space to bang in shots on goal, which looks tough given Mexico’s inclination to play with three central defenders. From the looks of it, Hulk would have to play off him to take some of El Tri’s attention off Neymar/Oscar.
Not too long ago, Brazil held a major psychological advantage over the Mexicans, but that’s gone now. Their shock loss at the finals of the 2012 Olympics will be fresh in the minds of a lot of players, especially Oribe Peralta, who scored a telling brace. Upsets are never too far away in a major tournament and Miguel Herrera’s men would hope to do the impossible. The Selecao would be going in confident into this match. The two men who form the fulcrum of their current team seem to be in cracking form and if they click again, another victory would be very hard to deny. There is no doubt that Neymar believes this could be his World Cup, and it is well known how calibre and confidence form a deadly combination. El Tri have their work cut out.