Brazil sealed passage to the quarter-finals of the 2018 World Cup after a comfortable 2-0 win against Mexico.
Neymar opened the scoring 51 minutes in when the Brazilian superstar tapped in Willian’s whipped cross, and then with two minutes to go the Paris Saint-Germain winger turned provider when the attacker allowed Roberto Firmino to tap in from six yards out to ensure the South American giants don’t become to latest big nation to suffer a shock exit from this year's World Cup.
An end-to-end opening half
Both teams got off to an exciting start in the fifth game of the Round of 16 stage of the World Cup. Mexico had the best chances early on as their in-form front three made easy work of a still sleeping Brazilian defence, but nothing from El Tri really tested Alisson Becker early on in the opening 10 minutes.
The North American side made it difficult for their South American rivals by using the wings to their advantage, and their game plan of hitting Brazil from the flanks and to cut in when the space opens up that they laid down from the start was proving to work as Mexico found it easy to exploit the Brazilian defence.
Carlos Vela and Hirving Lozano were often seen cutting in from their respective wings with pace and flair, but neither winger could test Alisson as most of their attempts either flew wide off target or were expertly blocked by Thiago Silva or Miranda.
But Brazil were far from being outplayed. Whenever Neymar was on the ball, the Mexican defence would tend to panic, allowing the PSG superstar to cause some damage. But, World Cup cult hero Guillermo Ochoa was there to deny the winger and the rest of Brazil’s all-star attack from opening the scoring in the first half with a pair of simple saves.
Brazil finally break through
The second half began with Mexican’s World Cup hero Ochoa saving his nation’s skin once again as Barcelona midfielder Philippe Coutinho came close to opening the deadlock when the creative playmaker fired from close range, but the Standard Liege keeper denied the Brazilian.
It looked like it was going to be another Ochoa master-class similar to the one we saw in Brazil four years ago when these two teams last met each other. However 51 minutes in, the South American giants and World Cup favourites finally managed to beat the Mexican goalkeeper.
Willian collected the ball on the edge of the area and drifted into the Mexico penalty area. The Chelsea winger whipped in a dangerous and sudden ball into the crowd of bodies in the centre of the box and into the path of Neymar, who had an easy tap-in to give the World Cup favourites the lead.
Paulinho could have doubled Brazil’s lead eight minutes after Neymar’s opener when the Barcelona midfielder was picked out in the area by Fagner, but the former Tottenham Hotspurs player’s shot was well saved by Ochoa to deny Brazil an established lead.
It was now all Brazil. Mexico, who had dominated in the first half and could have been leading if they had taken their chances better, were now playing a defending game, and playing it badly.
Tite’s side had Mexico on the ropes going into the final stages of the game, and with Juan Carlos Osorio making all three of his substitutes before the hour mark El Tri had to adapt quickly in order to avoid an embarrassing defeat.
Brazil seal Mexico’s fate
A second goal was coming for Brazil, and with two minutes of normal time to go, Firmino sealed Mexico’s fate as the Liverpool forward doubled his nation’s lead when Neymar broke through on goal unchalleneged, and the PSG star squared the ball to the former Hoffenheim attacker to seal Tite’s side place in the final eight of the World Cup.
Brazil shut shop in the closing stages of the game and held out to a 2-0 win, sending Mexico home at this stage of the World Cup for the seventh time in a row.