The second goalless draw of the tournament between the host nation and Mexico taught us quite a few things. The most important one was how big of a problem Brazil has when it comes to creative players that aren’t named Neymar. Guillermo Ochoa and his amazing goalkeeping skills took care of the rest.
Euphoria has been replaced with realism. The host nation, Brazil, isn’t going to have a very easy time winning the World Cup on their home soil and ending a drought of 12 years while exorcising the demons from 1950. If the struggles against Croatia weren’t enough to convince those who follow the favorites to win the tournament blindly, the 0-0 draw with Mexico probably did the job perfectly.
Luiz Felipe Scolari liked what he saw from his team last year. The problem is that things change. The midfield with Paulinho and Luis Gustavo isn’t working. Dani Alves has been in poor form all season, and wearing the uniform of the national team hasn’t changed that. It comes down to David Luiz and Thiago Silva to do all the build up play for the national team. It’s incredible to think that a nation that has brought more creative and talented footballers to the big stage is in such a talent drought from the attacking midfield and upwards at the moment.
Neymar is feeling the pressure. Every time he touches the ball the stadium, and probably the entire nation watching on TV, is buzzing. He tries to do too much on his own. He has a free role and ends up playing in the middle, behind the striker, too many times. Instead of starting plays on the left with an attacking left back like Marcelo playing close to him, he is often finding himself dribbling and trying to get by two or three players time after time. His selfishness is a problem as well, but it comes from feeling that those next to him can’t help.
Scolari keeps using players in the wrong positions. Ramires shouldn’t be a right winger for a side like Brazil. Bernard is wasted when he plays on the left side. Oscar had a great opening match, but it was hard to understand what he was doing on the pitch in the draw with Mexico. The same goes for Fred, or any other striker Brazil were using, which brings up the point of playing without a striker, a position which is becoming an endangered species in some countries.
Foe Mexico three players stood out: Andre Guardado with his fantastic crosses and long range shooting, Hector Herrera with some brilliant work in the middle of the pitch against the disappointing Brazilian unit and above all, Guillermo Ochoa, who has always been respected by the fans in Mexico for being a fantastic goalkeeper, but it seems like the whole world knows what he’s worth now.
Mexico will probably be able to afford a draw against Croatia unless Cameroon stun us all. They are also the first team that’s not from Europe or South America that managed not to lose against Brazil. Mexico might have a more impressive, richer footballing history than the rest of CONCACAF’s members, and yet walking away from a meeting with Brazil completely unscathed is certainly progress and something to celebrate.