World Cup Preview: Brazil v Mexico

Who? Brazil - Mexico
Where? Samara Arena, Samara
When? July 2, 16:00 (CET local time)

Brazil (Vitor Buratini Mendes)

In the last time that Brazil faced Mexico in a competitive match, the game finished in a tie and with a great hero from the Mexican side, Guillermo Ochoa. Brazil will face him once again and the memories of him are frightening.

Back to the match from 2014 World Cup group stage, Ochoa was the key player. He made incredible saves and was able to handle the Brazilian attack on that day. Back then, Neymar was not able to beat the goalkeeper, who was a true barrier.

We will certainly see a great game today. The Mexican team, despite having lost 0-3 against Sweden in the last match, made two good wins, including against powerful Germany. On the Brazilian side, we watch a team that is growing throughout the tournament.

Brazil has improved in each game. The last match began with a scare: the left-back Marcelo got injured and Filipe Luís substituted him in the first minutes. It caused a lot of fear on the Brazilian side since Marcelo is one of the pillars of the team. However, everything went well: Filipe Luis made an excellent match and he seems as good replacement.

The Brazilian squad is facing a lot of injuries: Danilo was injured earlier, and then Douglas Costa and Marcelo joined. Danilo and Marcelo are expected to be available for this match, although Marcelo is not supposed to be part of the lineup. It's unknown yet when Douglas Costa will return to play. Anyway, Brazil will hope that no more players will get injured, although the substitutes made great work as replacements.

The match will be a battle between two great teams from Latin America. If the injuries would not disturb the show, we will see the better team as the winner. Brazil will hope that Ochoa would not make the same performance as in 2014.

 Neymar versus Mexico in 2014, trying to leave the memories away (Jamie McDonald/Getty Images)

Neymar versus Mexico in 2014, trying to leave the memories away (Jamie McDonald/Getty Images)

Mexico (Meir Lozowick)

2 years ago, Mexico was in one of its lowest points after being eliminated from the Copa America Centenario by Chile. It just wasn’t just another elimination. Mexico lost 0:7 and the ground was shaking beneath Juan Carlos Osorio legs. The public and the press were furious, and the pressure to sack the Colombian manager was massive. Yes, the players were criticized as well, but the main target was the manager. The easiest thing to do was to release the manager from his duties. However, the chairman of the Mexican football association decided not only to keep Juan Carlos Osorio in charge but also grant him any demand that he might have.

After getting clear and loud support, Juan Carlos Osorio started the rebuild the team. He limited the press access to the training ground, as well as creating a direct channel with the European clubs of the players, were the important keys in the manager's plan. In the last 2 years, Osorio visited the players and talked with their managers in their respective clubs in order to maintain the ongoing plan that will benefit the nation team.

Another important aspect was the hiring of Imanol Ibarrondo, former Spanish footballer. Nowadays, he is a mental coach that helps to develop positive attitude and to create a change of thinking. Ibarrondo has created a set of specific rules for the players, so they can improve their mental strength. He obviously recognises that the first thing that the team need is to be in physical shape and well trained, but he and Osorio insist that strengthening the mental side, will improve the results of the team.

The first glimpse of the mental change was winning against the USA in the first time since 1972 in Columbus, Ohio. Mexico couldn’t win there and breaking this streak helped the players to gain confidence. The latest example can be seen against Germany in the first game. Winning against Germany for the first time in history has proved Ibarrondo's methods.

Mexico qualifying to the round of 16 is almost a guaranteed bet, as well as Mexico being eliminated in this stage. Following a hard defeat against Sweden in the last game of the group stage, Mexico has to play against Brazil. Arguably the best team of the tournament. If you want to bet on this game and ask Ibarrondo, he would recommend you to put your money on Mexico, or as a Spaniard he will describe it: “the best test for your ways, is always to do the hard thing, you either win or learn”. He got the opportunity he asked for, now it’s the time to demonstrate that his way is the correct one.

 Imanol Ibarrondo, the person behind the mental change of Mexico (Alihf Juarez/ mEXSPORT)

Imanol Ibarrondo, the person behind the mental change of Mexico (Alihf Juarez/ mEXSPORT)

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