Brazil 0 Mexico 0 match report: Brazil's one-man band goes out of tune as Neymar is unable to break deadlock

Brazil unable to break opponents down with Guillermo Ochoa making numerous excellent saves

Neymar’s blonde ambition was no match for Guillermo Ochoa last night as the Mexico goalkeeper frustrated the hosts and their talisman in a fiercely contested Group A match, which could easily have delivered only Brazil’s second group stage defeat in 44 years.

With his hair freshly dyed for the occasion in Fortaleza, Neymar seemed hell bent on smoothing the Selecao’s route to the second round, but too few of the support task were in the same mood, while Mexico’s custodian was determined to frustrate any that tried.

The last of Ochoa’s saves was from Brazil captain Thiago Silva, who met Neymar’s free-kick perfectly but, from six yards out, needed to put it either side of the keeper, who plays in France with Ajaccio. Marcelo had a penalty shout dismissed correctly during a frenetic finish before Andres Guardado skimmed the roof of the Brazilian net and Mexico substitute Raul Jimenez drew a fine save from Julio Cesar.

Tied at the top of the group with four points each, Brazil and Mexico will go into their final matches against Cameroon and Croatia respectively knowing only a win will guarantee them safe passage.

It was inside this ground, against this opposition, last year that the singing of the second verse of “Hino Nacional Brasileiro” became a sensation and once more the Fortaleza crowd delivered a spine-tingling rendition of the Brazil national anthem after the Fifa-approved backing track went silent.

Neymar looked genuinely moved at the end, dropping to his knee and taking a moment to absorb the enormity of the occasion, but any fears that it might overwhelm Brazil’s talisman were soon put to rest. After a sluggish beginning for the hosts,  the No 10 slowly brought Brazil into the game.

Bolstered by a convincing opening round win over Cameroon, the Mexico coach Miguel Herrera spoke on Monday about the importance of trying to cow the massive home support with a frenetic start, as Croatia did in Sao Paulo on the opening day of the tournament. It worked for a time but Brazil could have been in front when Oscar’s 11th-minute cross was missed from five yards by Fred – the linesman’s flag saving his blushes.

Then Neymar took control, his through ball perfectly weighted for Fred, whose shot was blocked by Hector Moreno before Marcelo’s cross deflected off Paulinho for a goal-kick. Not always renowned for his defending, Marcelo stood up well as Oribe Peralta, Mexico’s goalscorer against Cameroon, ran powerfully at him down the right channel.

Neymar in tears during the Brazil national anthem before the game with Mexico Neymar in tears during the Brazil national anthem before the game with Mexico

Mexico came back into the game after a quiet spell with Hector Herrera forcing  Cesar into making a magnificent save and the ball went out for what should have been a corner. The Brazil keeper’s reactions were so quick, however, that neither the linesman or referee saw him parry the ball behind and a goal-kick was erroneously awarded.

Both sides had been on opposing ends of questionable refereeing decisions in their opening matches, with Mexico having two goals wrongly disallowed for offside against Cameroon and Brazil benefitting from some generous officiating in their 3-1 win over Croatia. However, there were no indications that the playing field for both sides was anything less than level here, even if Dani Alves was lucky to avoid a booking for a late challenge on Guardado.

The Barcelona full-back is happier going forward and it was his cross that Neymar jumped to meet, only for Ochoa to dive brilliantly to his right to save. Mexico captain Rafael Marquez, who stands nine centimetres taller than Neymar, was comfortably outjumped by the Brazilian.

Fred was largely ineffectual Fred was largely ineffectual

Fred’s lack of a killer finish and habit of straying offside notwithstanding, going forward Brazil looked slick but at the back they were less than convincing and on the sidelines coach Luiz Felipe Scolari seemed to be getting increasingly hot under the collar of his white polo neck.

The Mexico midfielder Jose Vasquez had Cesar scampering across goal when he was allowed to shoot from distance, but it was Ochoa who was once more called into action before half-time. The Mexican keeper made a superb point-black save after a Brazil free-kick pinballed its way to the feet of Ramires, who was selected ahead of his Chelsea team-mate Willian in place of the injured Hulk, but was replaced himself at half-time by Bernard.

The Shakhtar Donetsk man nearly made an immediate impact for Brazil after the break as he forced Francisco Rodriguez to head his raking cross clear for a corner.

Mexico were not to be outdone however and, with their fans now in much better voice than the more plentiful hosts, Herrera’s men advanced and once more Vasquez threatened the goal with a shot from distance and Giovani dos Santos scuffed a shot at Cesar.

Giovani dos Santos in action Giovani dos Santos in action  

Scolari was once more drawn to the edge of his technical area when, seconds later, Herrera smacked a shot just over the crossbar. The hosts were on the ropes.

Neymar  lifted the siege, drawing a foul from his marker and taking the resulting  30-yard free kick himself. A little to the left of goal, his effort flew just wide of Ochoa’s despairing grasp, and the post. But Brazil were second to the ball all over the pitch, particularly in the middle, where Herrera, Vasquez and Guardado were combining industry with guile. Brazil’s attack appeared to have one, peroxide blonde, outlet.

It was no surprise to see Fred replaced by Jo in the 68th minute. Seconds later Brazil had their best chance of the second half as Ochoa once more saved superbly from Neymar at the far post.

Manchester United’s Javier Hernandez was given 17 minutes to find a winner for Mexico and quickly forced David Luiz into a smart piece of defending. Minutes later Luiz’s defensive partner Thiago Silva was booked for an ugly hack on the striker on the edge of the penalty area.

Brazil’s attacking substitutions almost combined for the winner, Bernard sliding a pass through for Jo, but the striker dragged his shot wide. It was one of those nights for the hosts, who must have suspected there would be speed bumps this month. They cannot afford to hit another one.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
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
and  

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

Career Services

Day In a Page

NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own