Despite a slow start to the tournament Brazil are beginning to look like serious contenders to win the World Cup for a sixth time but a dogged Mexico side who have surpassed expectations so far in Russia stand in their way.
A less-than-impressive 1-1 draw with Switzerland in their opening game at Russia 2018 suggested that Brazil hadn’t quite exorcised the ghosts from their humiliating exit at the semi-final stage four years ago when the hosts capitulated to Germany on home soil but two successive 2-0 wins, achieved against Costa Rica and Serbia, suggests that Brazil coach Tite is close to having his side fire on all cylinders.
Mexico, meanwhile, began their World Cup campaign with an impressive 1-0 reverse of Germany and followed that up with another win against South Korea. The 3-0 defeat which followed against Sweden in their final group game will be a concern for the momentum of Juan Carlos Osorio’s side in advance of the crunch match with one of the tournament’s favourites.
The sheer range of talent that Brazil have at their disposal is enough to cause calamity to any backline they face in Russia this summer. However, the displays from the Brazilian playmaker-in-chief Neymar will be a concern to Brazilian supporters.
The PSG man has appeared over-anxious so far in the World Cup, the massive weight of expectation placed on him by an expectant public seems to have robbed him of the carefree creativity which exists when he is at his effervescent best.
Mexico, on the other hand, appear to be far more than the sum of their parts. Javier Hernandez will be a constant threat up front, while Hirving Lozano in another who has enhanced his reputation with a series of stellar performances so far at Russia 2018.
The absence of central defender Hector Moreno, one of the team’s primary defensive stalwarts, will hit Mexico hard, particularly if they attempt to harry and press Brazil high up the pitch, a tactic which has proven effective for them so far in Russia but can leave unoccupied space in front of Guillermo Ochoa’s goal.
A likely quarter final encounter with Belgium, should they overcome Japan in their round of 16 clash, is the prize which awaits the winner of Monday’s tie in the Samara Arena.