Neymar World Cup 2014: Tearful star puts on a show but the rest are just not good enough as Brazil held to 0-0 draw by Mexico

Without a helping hand from the referee, the hosts were unable to secure a second win of the tournament

Neymar knows the weight on his shoulders as the poster boy for a nation, in tears again during the national anthem in Fortaleza last night. But no player, even one this good, can be asked to carry a team so lacking in the skills that he brims with.

Against a stubborn Mexican side, Neymar needed someone to go with him, to try things, to play with this massed defence. Instead he was surrounded by ineptitude, imprecision, immobility and inertia, as Brazil failed to find a way through. Neymar took on Mexico almost by himself, and although it nearly worked, it did not.

It was very clear through a disjointed first half that Luiz Felipe Scolari is still in the murky search for his best combination, even now, two games in. Scolari cannot have been thrilled with the performance in the opening game, when they needed a generous intervention from Japanese referee Yuichi Nishimura so they could overcome Croatia.

He replaced Hulk with Ramires but there was little to suggest it was the right decision. There have been Brazil teams before, of course, who needed more focus, more discipline and more attention to detail. But this is not one of them. This is a Brazil team curiously lacking in the old skills, the imagination, pace, bravery and simple skill that has made them so powerful in the past.

Ramires came into the side Ramires came into the side

Last night Scolari started with just two attacking players easily capable of picking apart a well-organised, enthusiastic and purposeful attacking side. Neymar and Oscar are both special footballers, even at 22 years old.

But those two received some help – from the referee, not from their team-mates – on Thursday against Croatia and last night they received none at all. The selection of Ramires, in fact, compromised Oscar, taking away his brilliant delivery wide from the right that was one of Brazil’s best approaches in Sao Paulo.

It took Dani Alves, Brazil’s one other exciting starter, to set the chance up that began Neymar’s duel with Mexico goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa that dominated Brazil’s frustrated attacks. The first was a dive from Neymar’s far-post header. The second when David Luiz tried to stab in the second ball from Neymar’s long free-kick. Ochoa’s third, halfway through the second half, was from another Neymar free-kick from distance.

Neymar looked like he was almost fighting a one-man battle against Mexico’s back five, which was precisely the problem. Against three centre-backs Brazil’s front line would have to work even harder to disrupt them and make space for Neymar. What they got, instead, was a performance from Fred that – given the stakes, the stage and the expectation – must have been one of the most disappointing produced by a Brazil forward at a World Cup.

There was a better tempo and more threat about the final 20 minutes, and Ochoa was called upon yet again to block Thiago Silva’s header from Neymar’s free-kick. But when the game was in the final minutes, and Brazil were pushing for a win that would have been desperately undeserved, it was Neymar running, again, into a forest of red shirts.

Neymar sees a free-kick go just wide against Mexico Neymar sees a free-kick go just wide against Mexico

There was just Jo, in front of him, trying to find the pace of the game after too much time on the bench. Bernard made one good dart down the right in the whole of the second half.

Oscar was taken off late on, run into the ground. And Neymar was isolated, with no allies in sight, no one on his level or on his wavelength, trying somehow to drag this team to where they need to be.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Billie Piper as Brona in Penny Dreadful
tvReview: It’s business as usual in Victorian London. Let’s hope that changes as we get further into the new series spoiler alert
Life and Style
A nurse tends to a recovering patient on a general ward at The Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham
Fans take a selfie with Ed Miliband in Kempston, near Bedford, on Tuesday
election 2015
Arts and Entertainment
No Offence
tvReview: No Offence has characters who are larger than life and yet somehow completely true to life at the same time spoiler alert
Chuck Norris pictured in 1996
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

Flesh in Venice

Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
11 best anti-ageing day creams

11 best anti-ageing day creams

Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

Juventus vs Real Madrid

Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power