Brazil vs. Mexico
Monday’s first match will include Group E winner Brazil against Group F runner-up Mexico.
Perhaps what has been surprising on the part of Brazil so far has been not their ability to attack, but to defend. Brazil enter this matchup having conceded only once to Switzerland in its first matchup, second only to Group A winners Uruguay. We all know Brazil has a stout attack featuring Neymar, Philippe Coutinho and Gabriel Jesus up front, but its back line of Marcelo, Miranda, Thiago Silva and Fagner has successfully limited opponents. Granted, goalkeeper Alisson has faced THREE total shots on goal. On the flip side, Mexico’s goalie Guillermo Ochoa leads the tournament in saves and has been a rock in goal for Mexico. However, much like the French side, Brazil hasn’t produced an explosive offensive performance yet.
Jesus has been held off the scoresheet, Neymar has found the back of the net once and Coutinho leads the team with two tallies. While Brazil’s offensive talent is not limited to those three individuals, it’s imperative for those three to find their groove. Perhaps the prospect of facing the tournament’s hottest goalkeeper will force Brazil to be more creative on attack to maximize chances on the part of the aforementioned trio.
Group F runner-up Mexico started its campaign with a shocking upset of 2014 champion Germany, and aside from its 3-0 defeat at the hands of Sweden, Mexico has been among the most consistent squads thus far. However, history is not on Mexico’s side. Mexico has advanced to the round of 16 in every World Cup since 1994 but have never been to the quarterfinals in that timeframe. Additionally, Mexico enters the knockout rounds with the second-worst goal differential among teams that qualified, and they’re now playing a team that prides itself on its attack.
With that said, Mexico’s strategy against the German side will provide them a roadmap for grabbing another upset. El Tri will need another outstanding performance out of Guillermo Ochoa in order to advance past the Brazilians. Look for Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez and Hirving Lozano to guide the Mexican attack, but this matchup is looking bleak for Mexico.
Matchup to Watch – The Brazilian Attack vs. Guillermo Ochoa
This matchup comes down to one thing—can Guillermo Ochoa stand on his head and shut down Brazil’s offense? While no goal in the Sweden match was explicitly Ochoa’s fault, the Mexican goalkeeper will need to find his form from the first two matches in order to give his side a chance.
Brazil’s attack will need to reach peak form in order to challenge the Mexican keeper and must look to El Tri’s match against Sweden as a blueprint for success. Brazil must automatically assume Ochoa’s mindset will be that of keeping balls out of his net at all costs and adjust appropriately in order to generate high-quality chances.
Prediction – Brazil 2, Mexico 1
The last time Brazil failed to reach the quarterfinals was 1990. Mexico will be a popular upset pick here given its result against Germany, but Brazil looks the part of a more unified side. Mexico will force Ochoa to make a lot of saves, and he will, but Brazil will create enough chances to advance to the quarterfinals. After the match, Mexico will repeatedly curse itself out as to how it never reaches the quarters, and Landon Donovan will have to pick a new team.