Brazil were so impressive against Serbia, that with Germany out now, they are big favourites, once again, to win the World Cup. And this is not because of their attacking flair, it is because they showed that they could bunker down for long periods of time and block opposition attack. Thiago Silva and Miranda were impeccable, Casemiro was his usual hustling bustling self, while Neymar was back to his best. He did not look for fouls, did not dive and he held onto the ball for just the right amount of time, every time.
He was at the heart of every attack of Brazil, just like a talisman, and he perfectly executed a training ground routine to set up the second goal for Thiago Silva. But apart from Neymar, one guy who has been the revelation at this World Cup is Philippe Coutinho. The diminutive attacking midfielder has been directly involved in 3 out of the 5 goals scored by Brazil, with two goals and assists converting to 4 clear cut points. His passing and shooting has been impressive so far, and he will only get better and better as Brazil progresses.
Mexico provided us with the first biggest shock of the World Cup, defeating holders Germany in their first Group match. They followed it up with an impressive victory over South Korea, which would have theoretically ensured their qualification. But, boy did it go down to the wire. Mexico, being Mexico, bottled it big time against Sweden, going 3 goals down with 15 minutes of game left.
All that was now required was Germany scoring a goal and dumping one of the most impressive team of the World Cup so far out of it. But to the surprise and shock of every football watcher, Germany could not find a way through South Korea and ended up losing two goals to none. This shock defeat helped Mexico sneak through as the second-best team of the group, which they have been, if not more. If at the beginning of the World Cup, you would have said Mexico that they will lose against a European opponent and finish second below a European team, they would have gleefully accepted it.
Their clash with Brazil will be an interesting tussle in the middle of the park. The old horses Andres Guardado and Hector Herrera have been big imperial presence in defensive midfield, while Casemiro and Paulinho bring eliteness to an already exquisite squad. The Real Madrid and FC Barcelona pairing have been doing well in tandem, with Paulinho being Tite’s favourite student and a ardent believer of his philosophy, while Casemiro doing all the dirty work and irritating oppositions and fans alike with his obvious fouls to break up play.
In the end though, it might come down to two exciting talents, one on the cusp of becoming the next big thing and the other on the cusp of becoming the greatest player. Yes, Hirving Lozano and Neymar Jr. will decide whose team progresses into the next round, as they bring the creativity, running and goals to their teams. It will be a fascinating encounter between two philosophies, Juan Carlos Osorio’s gung ho style of running and counter-attack for Mexico versus the calm and meticulously planned script of Brazil.