Brazil took a firm step onto the World Cup quarterfinals when they beat Mexico 2-0 at the Samara Arena yesterday.
After an evenly fought first half, Neymar gave the five-time world champions the lead sliding in from close before Roberto Firmino came off the bench to stab in the insurance in the 88th minute. Both goals were scored from five yards, from where it is very hard to miss the target.
The defeat meant Mexico made their exit from the round of 16 for a seventh straight time and despite their magnificent 1-0 win against Germany in the group stage, their dream of a World Cup win against the Selecao remain unfulfilled.
It was a high-quality game and despite playing in searing heat under the spaceship-like giant metal structure, both teams played with pace.
Interestingly it was Neymar who served the first salvo in the fourth minute of the game. The star striker sent down a scorcher that Mexico goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa somehow managed to fist away despite being blind-sighted.
But after that Mexico took the game to the Brazilians with their forwards Carlos Vela and Hirving Lozano, operating wide, simply tore through rightback Fagner, looking like a fish out of water especially against Vela, who frantically switched ends. Vela also forced Filipe Luis to go for a risky tackle and was booked in the 40th minute, which means he will miss the next game as he was already on a yellow card.
Mexico got their first real chance in the 14th minute. Lozano took control of a long ball down the right side in expert fashion before sending a perfect cross but Javier Hernandez was too late in coming through to take advantage.
After absorbing the pressure in the first half, which ended with ball possession evenly split, the men in the gold shirts launched a blistering attack only to be denied by Ochoa, who stood tall under the bar. Neymar broke through the defence but his close-range shot was blocked by Ochoa in the 25th minute. One minute later Coutinho fired a shot from just inside the box over the crossbar. Mexico defender Edson Alvarez brilliantly tackled Neymar in the box, when the Brazilian superstar almost opened up space after being fed by an overlapping Fagner.
Ochoa then palmed a Gabriel Jesus shot as both teams headed in to cool their burning feet after a blistering half.
Mexico could have scored early after the break had Jesus Gallardo not fired a left-footer over the bar when he had the better option of feeding Vela.
Brazil finally ended the evening's duck in the 51st minute. Neymar backheeled to Willian on the edge of the Mexico penalty box and continued a curling run into the box. Willian drove through the penalty box and drilled the ball low and hard across the face of goal. Both Jesus and Neymar were chasing it and Neymar got it with a sliding shot.
Brazil were actually hardly troubled by Mexico after the goal and were surging more with Willian operating down the flank brilliantly. Brazil's second goal was a combined effort of two fresh legs and the brilliance of Neymar. Fernandinho, who came in for Paulinho, sent a through ball to Neymar who galloped down the flank before releasing a neat minus which Firmino, coming on as a substitute for Willian, stabbed it from close. It was a tough game for Brazil, who however showed rigidity in defence and the tenacity to withstand pressure, which is a hallmark of a team capable of going all the way.
The only disappointing aspect of the game was yet another Neymar playacting. He screamed in pain when he had a soft touch with Mexico's Miguel Layun in the touchline. Layun was actually trying to collect the ball from Neymar with his hand so that he could take a quick throw. But the way Neymar reacted it was as if he was kicked, which was not the case. He was jeered by the Mexican fans after that, something he can't complain about.