The second leg of World Cup Group A began on Tuesday afternoon with a match between Mexico and host team Brazil, and the story of the game wasn't the people who scored the goals, but the people who saved them. The match, which put the Mexico football jerseys in the away slot and the hosts in the home team position, ended in a scoreless draw, earning both teams a single group stage point. Undoubtedly, both teams would have preferred the three points that accompany an outright victory.
For the many fans in attendance that were wearing Brazil soccer jerseys, the match was a second indication that the home team might not have what it takes to win this tournament. Last Thursday, they defeated Croatia 3-1, but did so thanks to a good deal of luck (and to a penalty kick that was largely undeserved). This week, Brazil's offense was repeatedly denied by the Mexico defense. Neither sign is a good one that Brazil will be able to withstand the harsher competition still to come.
The Hosts Keep the Lead for Now
Of course, Brazil is still sitting at the top of the table for Group A. Since Brazil and Mexico won their opening group stage matches and drew this match, both teams currently have four points (while group opponents Croatia and Cameroon are at least temporarily stalled at 0). Since Brazil scored three goals in its match against Croatia versus one goal for Mexico against Cameroon the team is currently winning Group A by virtue of goal difference.
Still, the Brazil soccer jerseys should be a glowing symbol of national pride right now, rather than the sign of a team that isn't fulfilling its status as tournament frontrunners. Theoretically, Croatia and Mexico should have both been easy prey for the hosts. The two teams were ranked by FIFA at 18 and 20, respectively, prior to the start of the tournament, seeds that don't hold a candle to Brazil's position at number three.
A Stellar Mexican Defense
Then again, ranking tables like FIFA's were made to be broken, and they have been shaken up in numerous ways since the start of the World Cup. For instance, top-ranked frontrunner Spain was smashed to bits in a 5-1 match against The Netherlands last Friday, and Portugal, a number four seed, was similarly crushed by Germany in a 4-0 game.
In today's match between Brazil and Mexico, the subversion of rankings was handled almost singlehandedly by Mexican goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa, who did the Mexico football jerseys proud with six miraculous saves that kept the talented Brazilian offense off the board. Choosing the best of those saves would be difficult, from a 26-minute dive that prevented Neymar from scoring his third goal of the tournament, to a 46-minute near-collision with David Luiz that denied the Brazilian defender's charge toward the goal and held both teams scoreless going into halftime.
Understandably, Ochoa was named "man of the match" for his performance, a sign that seemed to award a spiritual victory to the Mexican team even though the match technically ended in a draw. Then again, without a goalkeeper as skilled as Ochoa, the match would have easily tilted in favor of the Brazil football jerseys, so maybe the spiritual victory is no one's to truly claim.
High Stakes in the Final LegÂ
Either way, there is no doubt that the remaining matches of Group A will all be instrumental in determining who proceeds to the knockout stage and who gets sent packing early. Wednesday's 5:00 match between Croatia and Cameroon will mix up the Group A standings a bit albeit, without displacing either Brazil or Mexico from the top of the group while forthcoming matches between Brazil and Cameroon and Mexico and Croatia are "do or die scenarios."
Indeed, had today's match been called in favor of either the Brazil kits or the Mexico football jerseys, it would have almost guaranteed the victorious team a slot in the round of 16. Thanks to the draw, though, nothing is certain, and neither team can afford to safely lose or draw the next leg if they want to secure their chances at progressing further.
Do you think Brazil's chances are still alive for a World Cup victory? Or were you so impressed by Mexico's performance today that you are ready to declare the team a dark horse contender for the crown? Either way, stop by Soccer Box today and check out our selection of both Mexico and Brazil soccer jerseys.