World Cup Group A | Fortaleza | Wed 18 Jun | 3am
A game with all eyes on the officials. And nervy defences.
Well, that was a shaky start, wasn't it? Brazil, with expectation weighing heavily on their shoulders, looked unsettled in the opening stages of their Group A opener. Suspect choices from the referee at key moments, plus some dogged reclamation of the ball in Brazil's midfield, helped achieve superiority in a match during which Croatia looked good for at least at point.
Luiz Felipe Scolari will have drummed up the need for a more composed performance in a fixture which carries the potential to be an entertaining affair, particularly if Brazil defend as shoddily as they did on Thursday night.
The likes of Mexico striker Oribe Peralta will have been warmed by the weaknesses on show. However, manager Miguel Herrera has defensive issues of his own; at set-pieces, Mexico are a car crash waiting to happen. The likes of Neymar and Oscar will be able to generate a mood of panic with every free-kick.
In their opening 1-0 win over Cameroon, Mexico were unlucky not to score more; officials struck off two perfectly good goals. They will need their officials to improve if they're to take anything from this fixture.
What the local media say
"Those pre-match emotions were translated into nerves during the game’s opening exchanges. Then they were given a real shock when Marcelo turned Ivica Olic’s left-sided cross into his own net on 11 minutes. Frustration rose in the stands. There was no immediate recreation from the hosts, and boos began to be heard around the Arena Corinthians terraces. They were silenced by their key man, Neymar. The Barcelona forward was given more than a helping hand by Oscar." –Rio Times Online
"They have shown distinct signs of revival under the aggressive guidance of Miguel Herrera – the team’s fourth coach since last September – and should offer plenty of entertainment to the many fans who have followed them down to Brazil." – The News (Mexico)
Key battle: Marcelo vs Paul Aguilar
Real Madrid's left-back is the Moonpig.com of defenders: forever forcing a card of dubious design on someone. Against Croatia, the dismal sight of seeing Marcelo flashing phantom yellows towards the ref was only overshadowed by the suspect positioning of both him and Dani Alves on the other flank throughout the game.
Croatia had clearly worked on exposing the space behind Brazil's full-backs as they marauded forward. Pacey, attack-minded defender, Aguilar – who will be duelling with Marcelo throughout this game – might be able to find some space behind his opponent. If he does, target-man Peralta might find some fortune.
Facts and figures
- Brazil and Mexico met the last time the World Cup was held in Brazil, in the opening game of the 1950 edition at the Maracanã. The Seleção won 4-0.
- Mexico have only won 1 of their 11 games at the World Cup against South American sides (2-1 v Ecuador in 2002), drawing 2 and losing 8.
- Oribe Peralta has scored 9 goals in his last 7 competitive appearances for Mexico, including the winner in the opening group stage game of this tournament.
More FFT Stats Zone facts
Brazil to cruise into the second round with another 3-1 win.