A pair of second-half goals lifted Brazil to a 2-0 win over Mexico and a place in the World Cup quarterfinals. Brazil’s Seleção has followed up a slow start in the tournament to find its pace at the perfect time as it searches for its sixth World Cup title.
Mexico came out at a blazing pace in the opening minutes, putting a great deal of pressure on Brazil’s banged-up backline. Without first-team backs Marcelo and Dani Alves, Mexico had early success streaking down the flanks and finding consistent space in the box. Chucky Lozano and Carlos Vela had a few solid chances near goal that could not find the target.
After the first 25 minutes, Brazil punched back with its own star-studded attack. Philippe Coutinho, who led Brazil scoring efforts coming into this Round of 16 match, had a good look from the top corner of the box that he pushed wide. The combination of Coutinho and Gabriel Jesus nearly came back to score in the 33rd minute, but Mexican keeper Guillermo Ochoa made a great save on the first try from Gabriel Jesus and Coutinho’s follow-up try didn’t have enough on it to get through.
Before the first half ended, a cross from Willian was looking to find the feet of Neymar right in front of goal but Ochoa made another admirable save to get on the ground and cover up the live ball.
In the second half, Coutinho threatened again and put an excellent try on goal that was knocked away by a diving Ochoa, who enjoyed another great World Cup performance.
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Brazil finally broke open the scoring in the 51st minute when Willian received a backheel pass from Neymar atop the box and took an uncontested dribble inside before playing the cross back to Neymar for the goal. The score marks Neymar’s second goal in four World Cup games in Russia.
Ochoa came up big again for Mexico by reaching out to block a Paulinho try that was on the mark. A few minutes later it was Willian who saw his shot on goal deflected away by the star Mexican keeper.
In the 88th minute, it was Neymar again streaking down the left side of the field past the Mexican defense. He tried to sneak the ball in but it was slightly deflected by Ochoa. Brazilian substitute Roberto Firmino, however, was right there to tap it home for Brazil’s dagger.
Unfortunately for El Tricolor, it couldn’t get past Brazil’s Alisson Becker, who kept a clean sheet for the third game in a row. Speaking of streaks, this marks the seventh consecutive World Cup in which Mexico has made it to the Round of 16 only to be eliminated in the first knockout stage game. The continued “fifth game curse” is a disappointing conclusion to a start of the tournament that saw the Mexican side beat defending world champion Germany 1-0.
Though Brazil held on to advance, defensive midfielder Casemiro will be out due to yellow card accumulation for the next game against the Belgium – Japan winner for the chance to get to the semifinals. That’s a significant blow for a defense that may again be without Marcelo, who is rumored to be without with a back injury caused by a faulty bed mattress.
Brazil will kick off its quarterfinals matchup on Friday against the opponent set to be decided this afternoon.