Samara, July 1: World Cup favourites Brazil continue their campaign for the 2018 World Cup here on Monday against a Mexican side which stated their campaign brilliantly before coming dangerously close to elimination.
Brazil produced their best display of the tournament in beating Serbia 2-0 to secure their place in the last 16, finding more connection between midfield and attack than in previous games.
Much of that was due to the contribution of Phillipe Coutinho, who has been Brazil’s standout player despite Neymar’s attempts to grab the headlines.
Although he has scored just one goal, Neymar has had 18 shots so far in the World Cup and suffered 17 fouls, but has also been criticized for selfishness on the ball and play-acting when he receives challenges from rival players.
Neymar and Coutinho are certain to start and will be accompanied by Gabriel Jesus and Willian, with the latter the subject of transfer speculation linking him with a move from Chelsea to either Manchester United or FC Barcelona.
Left back Marcelo is doubtful for the game after suffering an injury apparently caused by his hotel mattress. If he is unable to play, he would be replaced by Atletico Madrid’s Felipe Luis.
Brazil struggled for fluidity in their opening two matches in Russia and will look to the win over Serbia as a turning point to their campaign and a confidence boost.
However, they will have to be wary of their disciplinary record with key trio Neymar, Coutinho and Casemiro a booking away from suspension.
Mexico travel to Samara after excellent performances against Germany and South Korea and a disastrous 90 minutes against Sweden, which nearly cost them a place in the last 16.
It will be interesting to see how coach Juan Carlos Osorio reacts after the 3-0 defeat to the Swedes and if he believes tiredness as a factor we can expect to see changes in his starting 11, with perhaps Jonathan Dos Santos coming into midfield and Hugo Ayala, who played against Germany, coming in to shore up the defence.
Brazil and Mexico are two of the countries who have the biggest number of fans with them in Brazil, and the stands in the 44,900 Samara Arena should be packed with color in what promises to a true ‘football fiesta’. IANS