World Cup Round of 16: Brazil and Mexico throw a party; everyone should come!
The Samara Arena will host a colourful encounter on Monday afternoon when Brazil met Mexico for a place in the World Cup quarter-final.
Given Brazil's inexhaustible talent pool, no team wants to play them this early. Mexico, however, brought it on themselves. They could have easily topped Group F to avoid a tie against the five-time world champions. El Tri's sub-par performance in their last outing, losing 3-0 to Sweden, ruined those hopes.
The Mexicans started the tournament beautifully, though. Keeping tight at the back downed Germany in Moscow. They must replicate such giant-killer instinct to progress further.
In a competition defined by fine margins, the Brazilians have endured their fair share. In the first two matches, they couldn't produce the form that blazed through Conmebol qualification. Against Serbia, though, the Selecao gyrated to some samba rhythm, delivering a convincing 2-0 victory to top Group E.
Brazil have beaten Mexico 23 times in 40 previous meetings. The 41st contest promises finesse, flair and plenty of drama.
Group E Winners
Since lifting the World Cup in 2002, Brazil have always been there or thereabouts. Two quarter-finals and one bizarre semi-final implosion on home soil have defined their last three appearances. In Russia, there's a certain swagger about Tite's team. One game at a time, the potential for glory is becoming realistic.
Selacao's reputation isn't only due to Tite's astute ways. They possess quality players in all positions, cut from the top European clubs.
Philippe Coutinho has been Brazil's standout so far. The Barcelona playmaker popped up with two vital goals, as well as providing a superb assist against Serbia. Meanwhile, Neymar can't seem to stop rolling around. However, there's no telling when the Paris Saint-Germain star will rise to the occasion. He is capable of tearing opponents apart.
The Brazilians have two injury concerns for the Mexico clash. Danilo and Marcelo are both major doubts. Tite is likely to stick with the same eleven which overran the Serbs.
Brazil have enough about them to give all other teams the shivers. They always find a way to score, even in the most difficult circumstances.
Group F Runners-up
Although Mexico aren't made up of the gold-plated talent that adorns Brazil, they possess the necessary bite to hurt any team.
Against Sweden, El Tri was unrecognizable. Their attack was easily sucked up by the Swedes. It was equally as bad at the back. Juan Carlos Osario's side were breached three times in 24 second-half minutes. As a result, they ended up needing South Korea's help to sail through.
The Mexicans do have a goal threat, though. They proved that in their first two matches. Javier Hernandez and Carlos Vela have struck a combined 69 times for their country - one apiece in this World Cup. With Chicharito on the prowl, one can never tell when he'll pounce to score against the run of play.
Osario has no injury worries. Hernandez and Vela should start up front alongside the highly impressive Hirving Lozano. No notable change is expected from the eleven which fell flat to Sweden.
Mexico lost out to Brazil in their only ever World Cup meeting. There's a first time for everything, right?
Can Mexico survive the anticipated onslaught to oust Brazil at this stage for the first time in 28 years?
The Mexicans will no doubt pour their heart and soul into the game. They have every reason to. In El Tri's last six World Cup round of 16 matches, they've bottled it on each occasion.
The Selecao can turn the screw whenever necessary. They're sure to create many chances. The Brazilians have too much quality to not put at least a few away.
It's the end of the road for Mexico. They'll do well to leave Russia with pride still intact.
Brazil wins 3-1.