Neymar & Co can ill-afford to underestimate Mexico

Neymar & Co can ill-afford to underestimate Mexico

SAMARA: Who said it is cold in Russia? Brazil are preparing for sweltering conditions in Samara against a red-hot Mexico on Monday.

Brazil’s physio Bruno Mazziotti confirmed on the eve of their first knockout game in the 2018 World Cup that the players will be fortified with isotonic salts as the temperatures will soar around 34 to 35 degrees, and it will be very humid.

Brazil coach Tite and his team are covering every possible base to keep the team in peak physical and psychological condition as they said on the eve of the clash, “We know Mexico well and so do they.”

Mexico go into the game following a surprising 0-3 defeat against Sweden after they had schooled Germany at the Luzhniki. Their opening high was short-lived.

The loss at Ekaterinburg to Sweden set them up to face Brazil in the Round of 16, the team every other side is looking to avoid. Tite’s side is growing organically with the tournament. The suffering against Switzerland seems to be a forgotten memory and the swagger around the 2-0 win over Serbia the new reality. And the player who troubled the Serbians the most was Coutinho who is growing in reputation in the yellow shirt even ahead of Neymar.

Countinho scored Brazil’s first goal the way he likes it most, banging a right-footer from the edge of the box. His toe poke ended Costa Rica’s siege and a delightful chip left Serbia’s dour defenders with a bloody nose, giving Brazil the upper hand.

Even Mexico coach Juan Carlos Osorio said Coutinho is the one he is most wary of. “I think Coutinho makes the difference because he’s a player who can play anywhere in midfield or further forward. He is a player we will have to watch out for as he’s really important to Brazil’s game.” The Barcelona man, with the third most expensive footballer’s tag, is controlling Brazil’s midfield and keeping it alive in Russia. Understated that he is, Countinho’s coming of age is also helping Neymar in finding his explosive best after a three-month injury lay-off.

Tite said on Monday, “Neymar was fantastic in the last game and is reaching his full potential.” Tite’s boys have given confidence to the fans and the duo of Coutinho and Neymar has spread its influence on a tournament drained of heavyweights.

So far Mexico have shown two faces, one that marked Toni Kroos and company out of Luzhniki and the other that capitulated against Sweden. Carlos Vela and Javier Hernandez can be a handful for any defence but they have to show up when duty calls.

To counter the threat of Brazil, collectively and individually, Ososrio’s Mexico really need to play the game of their lives to defy history. They need to replicate with greater zeal what they did to Germany, sitting tight at the back and breaking with monstrous pace whenever the ball came to them.

Brazil will not give away possession easily and Neymar’s range-finding passes will keep the Mexicans on their toes. Yet to reach his best, Neymar has shown signs that he is not far from being the true gamechanger.

Other ominous signs for Mexico are Paulinho’s form, Casemiro’s allround ability in the midfield and Brazil’s defensive solidity. Thiago Silva and Joao Miranda have kept things really tight in front of goalkeeper Allison.

At the press conference, Tite shared a little dressing room secret. “I have told the boys that I expect them to perform as they did against Serbia. I want them to repeat that level.”

Samara will test Brazil’s ability to buck the trend.

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