Mexico has one win in the books, but so does the Brazil team El Tri faces on Tuesday. Tom Marshall gives his keys to another win for the CONCACAF nation.
Mexico was surprisingly good against Cameroon, but an equal or superior performance will be required against Brazil - the favorite to win the whole tournament – if it is to pick up three points on Tuesday.
El Tri’s record against Brazil is relatively good, with three wins and three losses in the last six full international games over the past 10 years and Mexico can also point to that Olympic win in 2012.
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A lot has changed since that sunny afternoon in London, with both teams having new managers and different tactical systems. Mexico undoubtedly goes into the Group A clash as heavy underdog and will have to deal with the partisan home Verdeamerala support.
Here are five keys to Mexico picking up what would be three famous points:
Exploit the flanks
Both teams will fancy their chances of exploiting the opposition’s weakness defending the wings.
Mexico’s wing backs Paul Aguilar and Miguel Layun are primarily known for their attacking forays into the other team’s area, while Marcelo and Dani Alves are exactly the same for Brazil.
Brazil’s wide players – Neymar, Oscar, Hulk and/or William – will be hoping to take advantage, get in behind Layun and Aguilar and drag Mexico’s center backs out of position. Mexico will look to do the same and it would be no surprise to see Giovani Dos Santos drifting more towards the wings to find space and take advantage.
It will be crucial that Mexico’s central midfield trio of Jose Juan Vazquez, Hector Herrera and Andres Guardado provide support to help stamp out the threat and not give the host nation’s tricky forwards a chance to cut inside and run one-on-one against Mexico’s center backs.
Improve defense of free kicks
Mexico is the fourth shortest squad at the World Cup and has looked anything but confident defending set pieces both against Cameroon and in the preparation games.
El Tri can’t afford to give away cheap free kicks around the area with the likes of David Luiz and Thiago Silva very good in the air and El Tri must improve the marking inside the box, although with so little time between games, Herrera hasn’t had much chance.
The Barcelona playmaker floated positionally in Brazil’s opener against Croatia, nominally playing on the left, but covering ground all over the front line.
It is more than obvious that Neymar is Brazil’s biggest attacking threat and that if you can keep him quiet for 90 minutes, you have a chance.
But he doesn’t need much time or space to punish a team, as Croatia found out last Thursday and as El Tri witnessed first hand in the Confederations Cup when he scored and set up a goal in Brazil’s 2-0 victory last year.
You feel Mexico’s Vazquez needs to have the game of his life as a holding midfielder on Tuesday.
Aggressive start, not running out of steam
Croatia set a good early tone. Brazil knew instantly it was in a game and that it would be punished if it took anything for granted. Mexico needs to be equally fast out the blocks on Tuesday and make exactly the same kind of statement.
El Tri pressed high up against Cameroon with good effect and managed to keep it up for the full 90 minutes in what should’ve been a 3-0 win (barring the incorrectly disallowed goals).
Doing so against Brazil when Mexico will likely be chasing the ball much more and with a day less rest than its opponent is a big hurdle to overcome.
El Tri can’t be expected to have 58 percent of possession as against Cameroon. Brazil keeps the ball much better than the African side.
But Brazil’s propensity to push players forward leaves it vulnerable to the counter and Mexico have players that can take advantage, especially with the likes of Giovani Dos Santos, the wing backs, Hector Herrera and Oribe Peralta.
Rafa Marquez’s ability to pick out long balls could prove key, as may Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez’s penchant for breaking offside traps if he comes off the bench.