Mexico continued its impressive start to the World Cup by securing a 0-0 draw in Group A against Brazil in Fortaleza on Tuesday afternoon.
Guillermo Ochoa produced perhaps the performance of the tournament to date to reward the Mexicans for a committed and organized display. Ochoa repelled efforts from Neymar either side of halftime and stopped Thiago Silva’s late header to frustrate a Brazilian side expecting to collect all three points.
”In the end, the 0-0 mirrors what happened, it was a very hard-fought match,” Brazil coach Luiz Felipe Scolari said. ”The draw wasn’t a good result because a victory would have already allowed us to advance, but we need to be able to respect our opponent, which played very well.”
This confident Mexico display justified the belief in the ranks heading into the match and vindicated Miguel Herrera’s desire to press forward and test Brazil defensively. El Tri’s performance after the break nearly produced a winner with Héctor Herrera, Raul Jimenez and José Juan Vázquez all going close.
Those efforts did not hand Brazil its first competitive defeat on home soil in nearly 40 years, but they did reinforce the quality within this Mexico side and show why El Tri is now in control of its Round of 16 fate heading into its final Group A encounter against Croatia on Monday.
Brazil embraced the need to improve from the 3-1 victory over Croatia on Thursday and pushed forward earnestly from the outset. Mexico kept its line high enough to exert pressure on Brazil, but its lack of sharpness in midfield allowed the home side to enjoy the majority of the play in the early stages.
Despite its dominance in possession for long stretches of the first half, the Selecao carved out few gilt-edged chances against an organized El Tri shape. Most of the play occurred in front of the Mexico back five with Rafael Márquez offering good support by jumping into midfield at points.
Dani Alves created perhaps the best chance after 26 minutes when he stepped into space on the right and swung an inviting cross toward the penalty area. Neymar rose highest and turned his header toward the far post, but Ochoa reacted brilliantly to claw his header away off the line.
Ochoa responded quickly to race off his line to block from David Luiz on the stroke of halftime to ensure El Tri enter the break on level terms. Francisco Rodriguez continued the fine defensive work by cutting out a cross from halftime substitute Bernard to pave the way for a substantial Mexican improvement.
Mexico found its footing in midfield and presented some issues for Brazil with its endeavor and its quality in possession. Herrera and Vázquez both fired just over the bar as those trademark combinations on the ball started to tip the balance a bit.
Brazil inevitably started to pile numbers forward in a bid to claim the expected points. Bernard — a lively threat switching from flank to flank — delivered yet another inviting ball to the back post with 20 minutes to play. Neymar collected well and turned his effort toward goal, but Ochoa lunged to block with his thigh to protect the stalemate.
Mexico boss Miguel Herrera introduced Javier Hernandez and Marco Fabian in the late stages to present a threat on the break, but the final stages once again forced determined rearguard action. Jo — chucked into the fray in place of the disappointing Fred as the second half progressed — dragged wide of the far post, while Ochoa rushed off his line again to collect yet another Brazil ball over the top.
Ochoa perhaps saved his best stop for last. Neymar delivered an inviting ball into the goal area. Thiago Silva somehow ran free from his marker and smashed his header toward goal from close range, but Ochoa reacted quickly to flash out his right hand to turn the effort aside.
Raul Jimenez forced a fine, low save from Júlio César as the match entered stoppage time as Mexico ventured forward for a winner. It did not arrive by the final whistle, but the draw proved more than ample reward for a gritty display and placed El Tri in control of its own destiny ahead of the final match against Croatia in Recife on Monday.
Brazil: Julio Cesar, Dani Alves, Thiago Silva, David Luiz, Marcelo, Luiz Gustavo, Paulinho, Oscar (Willian, 84), Ramires (Bernard, 46), Neymar, Fred (Jo, 68).
Mexico: Guillermo Ochoa, Francisco Rodriguez, Rafael Marquez, Hector Moreno, Miguel Layun, Paul Aguilar, Jose Vazquez, Andres Guardado, Hector Herrera (Marco Fabian, 76), Giovani Dos Santos (Raul Jimenez, 84), Oribe Peralta (Javier Hernandez, 73).