Brazil v Mexico
Live on BBC1 8.00pm
At the time of writing, the 2014 World Cup is only five days old, but there have already been twists and turns galore; plots and sub-plots aplenty; and some surprises, too!
Perhaps the biggest shock was the Netherlands’ stunning victory over reigning champions Spain on Friday. It was no surprise that the Dutch actually won the game – we all know how capable they are when in the mood – but the 5-1 scoreline came right out of left-field. No one saw that one coming.
The following day Uruguay, fancied by many to go a long way in the tournament, were beaten 3-1 by minnows Costa Rica. Then, on Sunday, Argentina hardly impressed against tournament debutants Bosnia-Herzegovina, winning 2-1 but it would’ve been a draw but for Sead Kolasinac’s early own-goal.
On the opening day of the finals, the hosts were given a fright by Croatia. Indeed, Brazil were a goal down after just 11 minutes and, until they were awarded a fortuitous (to put it extremely mildly) penalty in the seventy-first minute, it was honours even and the Fiery Ones were giving as good as they got.
Though a 3-1 victory was ultimately a satisfactory start for the Selecao, the scoreline flattered them. Croatia are no mugs, that we know, but for a Brazil side carrying such high expectations it was a rather laboured performance. To justify their billing as tournament favourites, the Samba Boys need to produce pyrotechnics.
Mexico: a spicy bet at 11/1?
Luiz Felipe Scolari’s men tackle Mexico in their second Group A game at the Estadio Castelao on Tuesday. When they met in the Confederations Cup last summer Brazil ultimately ran out comfortable 2-0 winners but, believe it or not, El Tri have won seven of their last 13 overall clashes with the Selecao.
Nevertheless, Brazil are predictably long odds on to outpoint Miguel Herrera’s charges in Fortaleza, as short as 3/10 in fact. Meanwhile, the Mexicans are available at 11s in the match betting with Betfair and the draw is 5/1 with the same firm.
El Tri also made a winning start to their World Cup adventure, beating Cameroon courtesy of an Oribe Peralta strike in the sixty-first minute. However, in reality it was a far more resounding victory than the 1-0 scoreline suggests, with two perfectly good Giovani dos Santos goals bizarrely disallowed.
Though the betting suggests that Mexico will be tantamount to cannon fodder on Tuesday night (UK time), in my opinion the chasm between the two sides won’t be anywhere near as great on the pitch as it is in the betting. This will be a close game.
Neymar – the weight of Brazil on his shoulders
When Brazil last won the World Cup in 2002 they possessed a rare talent: Ronaldo. An out-and-out striker with a killer instinct in front of goal but, somewhat paradoxically, a player that also showcased the technique and skill more synonymous with an attacking midfielder. Ronaldo was, you could say, a hybrid forward.
At that time, Ronaldo’s primary partners in crime were Rivaldo and Ronaldinho, both of whom were blessed with outstanding qualities – great creativity and flair, and that duo also chipped in with more than their fair share of goals.
Now things are different. Neymar, who scored twice against Croatia, is a prodigious talent, while Oscar and Willian pose a threat from midfield. But in Fred, Hulk and Jo, the current Brazilian forwards are out-and-out strikers without the bells and whistles. They’re not hybrids like Ronaldo.
Consequently, the responsibility of mischief-making falls square on Neymar’s shoulders nowadays and, with all due respect to the rest of the squad, solely on his shoulders. If you shut Neymar out, which is easier said than done, admittedly, Brazil become rather one-dimensional.
Mexico are solid defensively and, despite missing key players in the middle of the park, they are also strong in that area. Up front, Peralta, who scored both of El Tri’s goals when they beat the Selecao 2-1 in the 2012 Olympics Final, and Dos Santos are very dangerous, too.
Have I gone barking mad? Maybe, but I strongly believe that the Mexicans can get something from this game, perhaps even win it. They are far too big a price at 11/1 in my opinion, but for the main bet the recommendation is to opt for Dos Santos, who looked very sharp against Cameroon, in the anytime goalscorer market at 11/2 with Betfair.
Brazil v Mexico betting advice:
Betfair Sportsbook special offer – 4/1 Neymar to score against Mexico
Neymar is 3/5 in the anytime goalscorer market with Betfair Sportsbook, but that price has been enhanced to an extremely magnanimous 4/1 for new account registrations (£10 maximum stake). Whether Brazil win, lose or draw, the probability of Neymar getting on the scoresheet is very high so it’s an outstanding offer!