Brazil vs. Mexico a Confederations Cup Preview
Brazil head to Fortaleza on Wednesday evening to face Mexico in their second group match of the 2013 Confederations Cup, in the knowledge that a win would secure them a place in the Semi Finals of the competition. Luiz Felipe Scolari saw his side run out 3-0 winners against Japan on Saturday evening in the tournament opener however it was a performance that needs to be improved on if Brazil are to walk away from the match with Mexico with three points. Mexico on the other hand are heading into their clash with Brazil following a 2-1 defeat to Italy where the Gold Cup holders came second best in every area against a sizeably impressive Azzuri outfit.
It is expected Scolari will resist national pressure and keep Hulk in his starting line-up ahead of Lucas Moura with the host nation’s public wanting to see a much more explosive attacking performance than the organised way in which Brazil have become accustomed to playing under Scolari. The impressive performance of midfield duo Luis Gustavo and Paulinho was one of the plus points from Saturday’s game against Japan with the Bayern Munich and Corinthians pair dominating all aspects of the midfield with Japan’s pairing of Endo and Hasebe being unable to build any sort of rhythm to their own game with Hasebe in particular being forced to drop back much deeper than expected as a result of Luis Gustavo’s pressing game when off the ball and Paulinho’s willingness to push forward with the ball to create space for Neymar, Oscar and Hulk in the attacking midfield trio.
Julio Cesar despite looking nervous when having to deal with Keisuke Honda set pieces was in reasonable form on Saturday evening making a small number of impressive stops and is likely to keep his place in goal on Wednesday. Scolari in picking Marcelo for the match against Japan surprised everyone with Filipe Luis being his favoured left full back in the Confederations Cup warm up matches against England and France and Marcelo rewarded his coach by putting in a stellar performance on the left hand side with the Real Madrid man getting forward and giving Neymar somebody to work one-two passes with however Marcelo was never really tested defensively on Saturday with Keisuke Honda being positioned on the right hand side of Japan’s attacking midfield three and with the CSKA Moscow playmaker not at full fitness it was always going to be a routine evening for Marcelo however against Mexico with Giovani dos Santos and Andres Guardado impressing significantly against Italy it could well be a tougher night for Marcelo should Guardado and Aquino swap flanks.
Brazil whilst never really moving out of second gear to beat Japan, did impress with the aforementioned midfield duo of Paulinho and Luis Gustavo looking like they could cope with anything the stronger teams in the competition such as Spain and Italy could throw at them. Alongside this we saw Neymar alleviate all pressure upon himself and his team with his third minute wonder strike to open proceedings in Brasilia on Saturday evening and if as we expect he has hit top form then Mexico’s defence which did look shaky when trying to shackle Mario Balotelli on Sunday is in for a tough ninety minutes especially with the raw power of Hulk and the incisiveness of Oscar also being present for them to attempt to deal with.
There was however one chink in the Brazilian armour and for me that was at central defence, with Thiago Silva captaining the side and playing well it looked as if David Luiz who is not known for his outstanding defensive ability was the area where teams could get at Brazil. We have all seen the way Javier Hernandez has excelled for Manchester United against Chelsea in recent matches with the Mexican boasting a record of seven goals in ten appearances in all competitions against the Blues with David Luiz having struggled to cope with the quick, intelligent movement of Hernandez. It wouldn’t be a huge surprise if we see Dante moved into the starting line-up against Mexico in place of Luiz with the Bayern Munich central defender having been a key component in the Bavarian side that won the treble this past season with the Brazilian’s performances particularly in the European Cup showing he is a very capable defender as well as being technically gifted when on the ball, very similar to Gerard Pique of Spain. I feel Dante would be far more reliable against Mexico’s quartet of quick attackers in the shape of dos Santos, Guardado, Aquino and Hernandez than David Luiz.
Jose Manuel de la Torre was in a defiant mood following his team’s 2-1 defeat to Italy on Sunday with the Mexico coach stating that he believed his side had controlled the game, “We had a lot of moves when we were in good positions. I believe we could have had better luck.” However this was not the full story, Italy in fact dominated possession with Andrea Pirlo on his one hundredth appearance for the Italian national side expertly illustrating how to play the pivot role behind two central midfield players and Mario Balotelli putting in a very mature performance which saw him link up a lot of play with his teammates in attacking positions and utilise his physical attributes to cause problems for Rodriguez and Moreno at the heart of the Mexican backline.
Mexico did however impress going forward with Giovani dos Santos looking like the player his potential promised when he was at Barcelona causing all sorts of problems for Andrea Barzagli who endured a troubling evening littered with individual errors. Javier Hernandez was at points in the match isolated up front and that is something Mexico will have to work on with Thiago Silva and Dante having the physical prowess and vision of the game to mark him out the match. Guardado’s energy on the left hand side was impressive as was his ability to track back and defend with the Valencia man who has played a lot of his football at Left Back at the Mestalla this past season, often breaking up Italian counter attacks.
Aquino on the right hand side was quiet however a lot of this was down to the eye catching performance of twenty year old AC Milan full back Mattia De Sciglio who defended as a player far beyond his years, very aware of his surroundings when on the ball and how to work his way out of troubling situations at the heart of Italy’s defence. De Sciglio was also an option moving forward when Buffon worked the ball into the wide areas which made Gerardo Flores’ evening on the right hand side all the more difficult. I would expect Aquino to get far more chances going forward against Brazil with Marcelo far less defensive minded than De Sciglio.
I would expect Mexico to keep the same line-up despite supporters wanting Gerardo Torrado out of the central midfield area to make room for the energetic Hector Herrera who was unfortunate to miss out on a starting place against Italy. It is expected de la Torre may make this change with Mexico needed to get more support up to Javier Hernandez and Herrera in the role of a box to box midfield may offer this.
Prediction: I suspect Brazil will put in a much improved performance against Mexico than what they did against Japan and they will have to in order to come away with the win and keep home crowds rife with political turbulence happy. Mexico at times in the match against Italy looked like the impressive side we have come to know following successful Gold Cup and Olympic campaigns however weren’t consistent enough to really trouble Italy too much. I suspect a lot of this was down to fatigue and lack of acclimatisation to their surroundings and the performance against Brazil will be much more of a reflection of their overall quality. I suspect coach de la Torre who knows a second successive defeat will all but send Mexico out of the competition will base his team selection around giving his attacking players far more support and Hector Herrera may well come in to support this. I do think Brazil will be too strong for Mexico and given Neymar’s mood and current form he could be a real handful for the Mexican defence short on confidence albeit a defence stronger than Japan’s. I think Brazil will run out winners at a scoreline of 3-0.
Written by Chris Winterburn
Follow Chris on Twitter @Chriswin4