Organised Mexico might be value on the European handicap.
It would, of course, be a disaster if a host nation, particularly one with an enviable World Cup history like Brazil, crashed out of the competition at an early stage. But they shouldn’t need help from star-struck referees to make progress and you would have to wonder what were the private thoughts of Croatia’s players and coaching staff after they’d lost in Sao Paolo.
If Brazil are to go far in the tournament, they need golden boy Neymar to perform. The Samba Boys look nothing special without the Barcelona forward and he made an early claim for the Golden Boot with two goals in the opening game against Croatia. But some would question whether he should still have been on the pitch after throwing an elbow into the face of Luka Modric.
Brazil went on to get one of the most generous penalty decisions in World Cup history from Japanese official Yuichi Nishimura and also had a helping hand form Croatia’s goalkeeper Stipe Pletikosa so it was a far from accomplished start from the tournament favourites, who looked shaky at the back.
Indeed, had Croatia played with a bit more self-belief after taking an early lead, the outcome may well have been very different. Next up is Mexico, and Miguel Herrera’s side may pose a stiffer test.
Going through 47 players and four coaches during qualifying obviously hasn’t done the Mexicans any harm. They were excellent in patches in their opener against Cameroon and value for more than their one-goal winning margin.
Herrera appears to have found a new role for veteran Rafael Marquez and his team look organised with plenty of flair among the forwards. That said, they have notoriously flattered to deceive in World Cups past and don’t look particularly robust, though none of their players shirked challenges against the physical approach adopted by Cameroon.
Manchester United’s ‘Little Pea’, Javier Hernandez had to be content coming off the bench in their opener and is unlikely to displace either Giovanni Dos Santos or Oribe Peralta against Brazil, who will again be praying that Neymar turns on the magic.
Defeat for Brazil is almost unimaginable but Mexico could run them close if they don’t get stage fright and the 5/6 about the underdogs with a two-goal start on the European handicap is tempting. Neymar is 11/4 to be first goalscorer this time.
This match kicks off at 8pm UK time on Tuesday June 17th at the Estadio Castelao, Fortaleza.