Mexico goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa had become an internet sensation four years ago after Brazil and Mexico played out a thrilling 0-0 draw in Fortaleza during their 2014 World Cup group game. Four years later the two teams met again in 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia in the Round of 16 match at Samara Arena on Monday.
It looked like it was an action replay of that Fortaleza game as Brazil peppered Mexico goal with waves of attack after attack and the 32-years-old custodian kept El Tri in the game with a string of saves until he conceded two second-half goals about which he couldn’t do much about as Brazil advanced to the quarter-finals of the World Cup.
World’s costliest player, Neymar Jr, tapped a home from a close range in the 51st minute and set up the second goal for substitute Roberto Firmino in the 88th minute as the five-time champions remained on course in a World Cup full of surprising results.
In the closely fought encounter, Brazil had a total of 21 shots on the target, of which 10 were on target and four shots were blocked, showcasing the proficiency of Brazil’s attack. The front three men of Tite - Neymar, Gabriel Jesus and Willian were often provided with the ammunition from Barcelona man Philippe Coutinho, who too joined the trio in the attack along with his club mate Paulinho. But, it was Ochoa, who plays for Belgian side Standard Liege, kept Samba boys at bay till the breather.
Neymar breaks deadlock
Early in the second-half, another intriguing move involving Brazil’s front four paid off, as Coutinho found Willian inside the penalty area with.
Chelsea winger then squared a ball past diving Ochoa across the face of the goal. Manchester City man, Jesus, missed the ball despite putting in a sliding effort, but behind him was Neymar, who too put in a sliding effort to put the ball into the back of the net to give Brazil the deserving lead.
Apart from the delivering the psychological blow to El Tri, Brazil became the tournament’s all-time leading scorers, as it was their 227th World Cup goal, taking them past Germany. To add to the statistical cliche, Mexico has never won a knock-out game after falling behind, while Brazil had never lost a game of such manner in which Neymar had scored.
Even after taking the lead, Brazil, rightfully continued with their attacking approach and kept launching attacks on Mexico goal, but were denied by the omnipresent Ochoa.
As the game progressed, the frustration crept in with Mexico committing tactical fouls. In the 70th minute when the ball went out for a throw-in, near Brazil dugout, Neymar kept the ball in between his feet, while Mexico substitute Miguel Layun was desperate to restart the game.
In an attempt to retrieve the ball, Layun appeared to have deliberately stepped on former Barcelona man’s ankle sending him to roll on the floor in unbearable pain.
But after consulting Video Assistant Referee Italian official Gianluca Rocchi decided to take no action.
Mexico, visibly fatigued against their superior opponents, continued their pursuit of the equaliser but were denied by the watertight Brazilian defence until they let in the second goal.
Fernandinho put Neymar through behind Mexico defence who made a run into the box and slotted the ball at the far post, but Ochoa got a slight touch to it, but Firmino, who had come on late as a substitute, had made a run through the middle to put the ball into the back of the net to score a poacher’s goal and send the entire team into frenzy of celebrations.