Samara (Russia): Neymar scored a superb opener and set up substitute Roberto Firmino for a late second as Brazil cruised into the quarterfinals of the World Cup with a 2-0 win over Mexico at the Samara Arena here, Monday.
Bidding for a record-extending sixth title in Russia, Brazil weathered an early storm before Neymar turned on the style to underline their status as favourites.
Brazil will now meet the winners of Monday’s later match between Belgium and Japan, but after seeing Argentina, Spain and Portugal eliminated in the last 16, Tite’s men will fancy their chances.
“We have to learn to suffer and we did suffer, it was a tough match,” said Neymar after the game. “We knew they were a high-quality opponent.”
Mexico made a bright start in their attempt to beat Brazil in a World Cup match for the first time. But after dominating the first 20 minutes of an entertaining opening period, Brazil came back into the match, bossing the final stages of the half.
The match had been billed as a duel between Neymar and Javier Hernandez, but the West Ham striker was more noticeable for his platinum-dyed blond hair, a choice also made by central defender Carlos Salcedo, before being replaced in the second half.
Once Brazil awoke from their early slumber, there was no stopping them and had it not been for Mexican goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa, the Selecao would have taken the lead in the first half itself. Ochoa first blocked Neymar’s angled drive and striker Gabriel Jesus saw his shot being palmed away by the keeper after a smart one-two.
After the interval Mexico lost drive and focus and Neymar broke the deadlock on 51 minutes. The PSG drew several defenders as he ran across the edge of the area with the ball at his feet. He laid it off for Willian and darted into the box, stretching to convert the Chelsea midfielder’s superb delivery.
Mexico were on the ropes, but Casemiro spurned a great chance to stretch Brazil’s lead, seeing his shot blocked by Ochoa.
Mexican coach Juan Osorio replaced the ineffective Hernandez with Raul Jimenez on the hour and the latter immediately fed Carlos Vela whose curling shot was tipped over by Alisson.
But Brazil by then had moved up a gear. With 10 minutes remaining, Tite replaced Paulinho with Fernandinho. The later fed Neymar who turned provider in the 88th minute, finding Firmino in the box and the Liverpool forward made no mistake.
Chelsea winger Willian was a constant threat to the Mexican defence with his driving runs. “I’m very happy with my performance but even more so with the team’s victory,” he said.