World Cup Preview: Brazil - Mexico

Victory for either side will go a long way to securing top spot, with the host nation already thinking about qualifying as winner to avoid the best of a tough Group B.
FORTALEZA — Brazil and Mexico renew their old acquaintance when they meet at the Arena Castelao on Tuesday afternoon, with both sides having earned maximum points in their opening World Cup Group A fixtures.

While host nation Brazil could be thankful to the benevolent refereeing of Yuichi Nishimura for helping them to a 3-1 win over Croatia, Mexico earned a 1-0 success over Cameroon in spite of having two legitimate goals disallowed for offside in the first half. Regardless, both sides are now well placed to qualify for the last 16.

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Neither Luiz Felipe Scolari nor Miguel Herrera are liable to overhaul their teams, though the host does have some concerns about the fitness of Hulk, who limped out of training Sunday morning with a thigh problem.

Although left-footed, the Zenit St Petersburg striker is typically used on the right, where his brutish power allows him to cut inside and unleash fierce shots goalward.

Without this weapon, Scolari may opt for Bernard to fill the void, as it was the Shakhtar Donetsk man who came on to replace the 27-year-old midway through the second half of the Croatia game.

Ramires provides another option, with the Chelsea midfielder’s energy down the right a potential antidote to a Mexico team that likes wingbacks Paul Aguilar and Miguel Layun to be very involved offensively.

No doubt there will be scrutiny of center forward Fred, whose tumble in the box under the merest of touches from Dejan Lovren last Thursday sparked the first major talking point of the World Cup. Nevertheless, it will inevitably be Neymar, scorer of two goals in the opening game, who carries his nation’s offensive burden once more.

Mexico, meanwhile, likely will remain unchanged from the side that defeated Cameroon thanks to Oribe Peralta’s goal just after the hour mark. Peralta and Hector Moreno have slight knocks, but these are nothing the camp is particularly concerned about.

Javier Hernandez, widely considered to be one of Mexico's star players, was benched for that opening match and there appears to be little prospect of him being used as anything more than an impact substitute – a role Chicharito admits he is frustrated at being cast in.

Nevertheless, this swashbuckling Mexican side will likely set itself up to attack, which should make for another thrilling match in this entertaining World Cup group stage.