World Cup hosts Brazil were held 0-0 by Mexico in Group A on Tuesday night.
The Selecao had the chance to virtually ensure their place in the knockout stages of the competition with a win in this one, but failed to shine in Fortaleza.
The Brazilians were rather unconvincing in their opening match against Croatia, but managed to collect maximum points via a controversial penalty and a late goal from Chelsea playmaker Oscar.
Against Mexico once again they struggled to really get going.
The Mexico backline marshalled by captain Rafa Marquez were absolutely superb.
Keeper Guillermo Ochoa pulled off some fantastic saves and has definitely put himself in the shop window for a move this summer, after leaving French outfit Ajaccio as a free agent.
The 28-year-olds performance will no doubt attract attention from clubs all over Europe. Premier League Arsenal has been linked with the keeper in the past. Maybe he could prove a viable replacement for the now departed Lukasz Fabianski.
I feel like I being blasphemous by saying this, but Brazil seemed to lack creativity against Mexico. They struggled to break down a very well drilled Mexico defence and keeper. At times Brazil resorted to taking long range efforts with little effectiveness.
Premier League regulars Ramires and Paulinho were poor in the Brazil midfield. Chelsea’s Ramires started yesterday’s game in place of the incredible injured Hulk and was almost anonymous for the 45 minutes he played.
The Chelsea ace touched the ball just 14 times in that first half and his performance led to him being replaced by the slightly more dynamic Bernard at half-time. In truth Ramires deserved nothing better from his inept performance.
Paulinho struggled to find form towards the end of last season with Tottenham in the Premier League, after making a bright start to his Spurs career. The midfielder’s form has not improved during this tournament and he was completely ineffective against the Mexicans.
Like every big name player, Brazil forward Neymar is a match winner. The 22-year-old scored two goals against Croatia in the opening match and got the Selecao off to a good start. However, it seems if Neymar does not perform, Brazil do not either.
Brazilian national teams of the recent past have often relied upon superstar to inspire them to glory. The likes of Ronaldinho, Kaka and Ronaldo have all played that role in the past. This time around it is youngster Neymar assigned with the tag of match winner.
The youngster endured a difficult first season in Spain with Barcelona at club level, as fans questioned everything from his lifestyle to his hair style. He arrived in Spain with the reputation as a superstar player in the making and did not quite live up to his reputation.
His return of nine La Liga goals and eight assists was considered poor by a lot of observers. However, those critics have probably forgotten the fact that he is just 22 years old and had to adapt to a new lifestyle and league.
Despite his perceived struggle in his first season in Spanish football, Neymar is still regarded as a hero in his homeland. Against Mexico you could not fault his effort, but maybe he was trying too hard to win the game on his own.
The youngster needs his teammates to up their game, especially Chelsea’s Oscar, who had a poor game against El Tri. Oscar is regarded as another one of Brazil’s brightest hopes, but the Mexicans did well to limit his influence on last night’s game.
One area of the team that the Selecao are badly lacking is up front. Neymar can play as a central striker, but the Barca star is more effective coming in from the left wing. The man currently in possession of the central striking role is former-Lyon striker Fred.
In the first two games of this World Cup, I think the corner flags have moved more than the Brazilian striker. He regularly gets caught offside and to say his movement is poor would be an insult to poor to be honest.
Fred scored five goals at the Confederation Cup in 2013, which put him at the head of the queue to lead the line for Brazil. However, in opening two finals games he has shown that he may well be a weak link in the team.
The other main striking option available to Brazil boss Luis Felipe Scolari is Jo, formerly of Manchester City and Everton, now plying his trade back home with Atletico Mineiro, where he plays alongside Brazilian legend Ronaldinho.
At Mineiro he won the Copa Libertadores in 2013, despite his recent upturn in fortunes I do not think he will ever be considered a world-class striker. He is hardly consistent in front of goal either, with six goals in his last 23 appearances at club level.
Hopes were high in Brazil that the Selecao could win the tournament on home soil. They are still favourites to claim the trophy at odds of 10/3, but if they are to triumph on home soil their performances will need to vastly improve.
Can Brazil win the World Cup this summer?
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