Brazil and Neymar extend Mexico’s World Cup ‘curse’ in 2-0 win
BRAZIL 2 (Neymar 51′, Firmino 88′)
By Jacob Gaynor
Brazil has reached the quarter-finals after Neymar scored one and provided the assist for another in a 2-0 win over a Mexico side that has again fallen for its World Cup ‘curse’.
Neymar opened the scoring with a tap-in on the 50-minute mark and Roberto Firmino ensured that Brazil would progress with a second goal two minutes from time.
It was another agonising exit for Mexico which has been eliminated at the last-16 stage in the past seven World Cups going back to 1994.
Brazil will now face Belgium in the quarter-finals but will be without the influential holding midfielder Casemiro who picked up a yellow card in the second half and is suspended for the next match.
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Mexico appeared unfazed by their poor record in the last-16, beginning brightly and Brazil’s defence struggled with their pace in attack.
Inside the opening two minutes Hirving Lozano went close as his shot was blocked after Alisson failed to deal with a dangerous cross from the left.
Mexico continued to trouble Brazil in the opening stages, with Fagner and Filipe Luis, in particular, struggling to cope with the constant threats down the wide angles.
Having been second best for the first half hour, Brazil finally troubled the Mexican defence when Neymar forced Guillermo Ochoa into a good save and, shortly after, Gabriel Jesus had a shot blocked.
Jesus then had another opportunity when the Mexican defence failed to clear the ball but Ochoa was equal to his shot.
Brazil started to have the better of play leading into half-time and the Mexicans realised the danger by removing veteran captain Rafa Marquez for Miguel Layun at the break.
The Brazilians continued to look the more likely early in the second half, with Philippe Coutinho cutting inside the penalty area only for his shot to be pushed away superbly by Ochoa.
But the Mexican keeper could do nothing about Brazil’s opening goal five minutes after the restart.
Neymar started the move when he took defenders with him as he dribbled across the top of the box before he back-heeled for Willian to run into the space that had been created.
Willian’s left-foot cross took out Ochoa as it flashed across the Mexican goal and Neymar had raced in to the box to collect the return and slide the ball into an open net.
Paulinho almost doubled Brazil’s lead before the hour but his shot inside the box was kept out again by Ochoa, who then had to tip Willian’s fierce strike over the bar.
Mexico never really looked likely to get back into the game after looking so threatening in the opening half-hour, and Brazil made sure of the win two minutes from time.
Neymar, who again will come under scrutiny for his theatrics, burst through and prodded the ball past Ochoa for Firmino to finish the game and Mexico’s World Cup campaign.
Brazil: Allison, Miranda, Thiago Silva, Fagner, Filipe Luis, Casemiro, Paulinho (80′), Willian (91′), Coutinho (86′) , Gabriel Jesus, Neymar
Substitutions: Fernandinho (80′), Roberto Firmino (86′), Marquinhos (91′)
Mexico: Ochoa, Gallardo, Salcedo, Ayala, Alvarez (55′), Guardado, Marquez (45′), Herrera, Lozano, Hernandez (60′), Vela
Substitutions: Layun (45′), dos Santos (55′), Jimenez (60′)