5 talking points as Neymar lights up World Cup and sends Brazil past Mexico

Neymar finally showed his best as he scored one and made another to lead Brazil into a seventh consecutive World Cup quarter-final at Mexico’s expense.

The planet’s most expensive player showed his class as the Selecao’s bid for a sixth World Cup saw them hold out against an early Mexican storm, before taking charge and comfortably running out 2-0 winners, thanks to goals from he and Liverpool’s Roberto Firmino.

Neymar opened the scoring in the 51st minute, attracting three Mexican defenders before cleverly backheeling to Willian, continuing his run into the box and getting on the end of the Chelsea man’s low delivery.

Then, after Mexico had run out of steam and committed more men into attack, Fernandinho picked off a pass in midfiled, sent Neymar clear, and Firmino was the beneficiary, tapping in from close range.

It was an intelligent display from the South Americans, rock solid defensively, then gradually taking over with their greater ability on the ball and leaving Mexico to ponder their seventh successive exit at the last 16 stage.

Mexico started quickly, looking to make life uncomfortable for the tournament favourites, just as they did the now-vanquished holders, Germany.

Juan Carlos Osorio the wily Colombian coach, pushed Carlos Vela and Hirving Lozano high and wide up against the Brazilian full-backs, with the hard-running Javier Hernandez in between as they attempted to pin back the Selecao defence and make it as uncomfortable as possible.

Certainly, they had early joy, but the feeling was that they needed to score then and there. In short, a mixture of solid defending, poor choices and abject shooting meant they didn’t really come close to beating Alisson.

And gradually, as the first half wore on, Brazil took control. In withering heat it was only natural that the relentlessness of the Mexican press would wane, and having stood strong in an intriguing, even contest for 30 minutes or so, Tite’s men began to take charge and test Guillermo Ochoa.

Alas, while Philippe Coutinho, Gabriel Jesus – still goalless at these finals – and Paulinho all took aim, they found the Guadalajara-native in fine form, standing strong before the break.

Having ended the first period strongly, Brazil came out on the front foot, and within six minutes had their reward.

After seeing Coutinho step in from the left side and force Ochoa into a smart save, Neymar took charge with a similar piece of play bagging his 57th international goal with a move he both started and finished.

Cutting in from the left, the £200million superstar lured three players towards him, before a clever backheel to the under-lapping Willian.

The Chelsea man, peripheral on the right during the first half, took a smart touch into the space that Neymar had opened up, before crossing low, just beyond the despairing fingertips of Ochoa, with his cross finding the on-rushing Neymar who duly slid home.

Osorio made changes, bringing on Jonathan dos Santos and Raul Jimenez to make his El Tri more progressive as they sought to get back on level terms.

But it was the South Americans who looked more likely to find the game’s second goal with Neymar and Coutinho increasingly finding space within which to work.

Neymar teased and tempted Miguel Layun, on as a substitute at the break, before creating a shooting opportunity for Paulinho, while Willian, cutting across the field effectively, forced Ochoa into a save.

Neymar was fast becoming the game’s central figure and true to his manager’s word was looking sharper than at any point during the group stage.

But amid the undoubted good comes the bad, the always-ready flop to the floor whenever touched, and the comedy rolls when Miguel Layun (stupidly) placed a toe (or four) on top of his ankle as he lay on the floor holding onto the ball. By the letter of the law Layun should have been sent off, but the reaction was pretty pathetic.

"Neymar has the lowest pain threshold of any player in World Cups since Opta stats began" tweeted Gary Lineker, and he’s not wrong.

Those actions, plus a number of other stoppages, played into the hands of Brazil and stifled Mexico’s hopes of building up a head of steam in their quest for an equaliser.

And late in the day, when they threw bodies forwards and left space in behind, Neymar took full advantage, striding forwards and seeing his poked effort diverted by Ochoa’s toe into the path of the recently-arrived Roberto Firmino, who couldn’t miss and sealed a spot in the last eight.

It’s a warning to their rivals that both Neymar and Brazil are coming to the boil at just the right time.

Here are five talking points from Samara…

Read More

World Cup 2018 second round matches

  • France 4-3 Argentina
  • Uruguay 2-1 Portugal
  • Spain 1-1 Russia (3-4 pens)
  • Croatia 1-1 Denmark (3-2 pens)
  • Brazil 2-0 Mexico
  • Belgium 3-2 Japan

1. Blonde hair don’t care

A couple of Mexican players made headlines pre-game with their new tops, Javier Hernandez and Carlos Salcedo both rocking the bleach blonde look.

Whether the duo and Miguel Layun had done so as a means of unity or to distract the home media from the size of the task at hand, as they looked to pass the last 16 phase at which they have fallen at each World Cup since 1994, we can only speculate.

But what it didn’t distract from in the heat of Samara was that they fancied this and they fancied making life difficult for the World Cup favourites. No doubt emboldened by what they’d done to Germany in the group stage, they didn’t sit back and wait for Brazil to come to them but rather elected to pose their own questions.

In the early phases of the first half they asked questions with direct channel balls, by pressing high, by looking to turn the Brazilian defence and make it defend facing its own goal. The wide players, Vela and Lozano, both stayed high and wide to offer an outlet for direct lateral passes and diagonal balls.

In short, they made life as uncomfortable for the Selecao as we had seen thus far in the early throes.

2. A different way of defending (set-pieces)

Mexico aren’t a particularly tall side, and certainly Brazil – with the likes of Thiago Silva, Miranda, Casemiro and Paulinho were – had the aerial advantage where set pieces were concerned.

So it was interesting to see how El Tri attempted to combat an area where they were at a disadvantage.

When Brazil won corners, Juan Carlos Osorio’s men elected to leave three men up field (meaning Brazil had to leave at least three back) brought two men out to stop the short, had one on the post/at the edge of the six-yard box, and then four marking.

It meant they couldn’t be penned in and could immediately try to counter, but also ensured Brazil couldn’t pack the box.

3. Neymar finally comes to the party

He showed flickers against Serbia, having found the net against Costa Rica.

But if this was where the real World Cup began, then this was where Neymar finally made his presence felt.

The PSG superstar scored the first goal, created the second, and was at the centre of everything good about the Selecao attack in Samara. It was he who, in the opening stages of the second half, really signalled Brazil’s intent to step things up a notch by driving at Layun, twisting and turning, and trying to create chances for teammates.

At 26, he’s seen the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi and Andres Iniesta all sent home over the weekend and was in little mood to follow suit.

He did well not to react to some tactics to wind him up in the second half – despite how laughable his rolling around on the floor when Layun stood on him may have been – and focused on the task of leading Brazil into the next round.

He’s rather been overshadowed by Coutinho in Russia thus far, with the Barcelona man having been largely exceptional, but this was much more like it from Brazil’s main man.

4. Willian comes in from the outskirts

Willian has forced his way into Tite’s plans at these finals, occupying the spot on the right of the attack, since Coutinho’s switch into central midfield.

During the group stage, the Chelsea man – wanted by Manchester United boss Jose Mourinho for a £50million reunion – made little impression and little impact. All too often, he appeared little more than a spare part.

Certainly, for the opening 45 minutes here, it appeared to be a similar story. But after half-time, Willian started to roam, not standing out on the right but cutting in and getting involved when he saw the opportunity was right to do so.

That desire to go and make something happen and not just wait – something Spain forgot to do on Sunday – led to both the first goal and a chance shortly after.

5. Casemiro a quarter-final miss

Brazil arrived in Samara with three players on yellow cards.

Philippe Coutinho and Neymar both got through this victory unscathed, but Real Madrid anchor Casemiro wasn’t so lucky.

The man who has made the sitting role in front of Thiago Silva and Miranda his own picked up a second half booking as he crudely broke up a Mexican attack, meaning he will miss the quarter-final.

Tite can call on Fernandinho to replace him, but losing the three-time Champions League winner is unquestionably a loss.

Will Brazil win this World Cup?


Source: Read Full Article