SAMARA, July 2: There are not many teams in world football who boast an even moderately successful record against five-time World Cup winners Brazil but in recent years Mexico has proved it has what it takes to upstage the yellow-shirted powerhouse.
Whereas seven of the teams in the knockout stages of the tournament have failed to record a single victory over Brazil since 2000 – admittedly Spain, Denmark and Belgium has only played the South American giants once each – Mexico has won six of its 14 match-ups with Brazil in the same time period. Only France, who has beaten Brazil three times in six meetings, has a better record of the remaining teams in the last 16.
More impressively, Mexico has won six of its last nine competitive fixtures against Brazil, losing just twice, and will go into the last 16 clash in Samara on Monday full of confidence.
A Mexican side also overcame Brazil to win the gold medal at the 2012 Olympics in London and Mexico held the host to a goalless draw in the World Cup group stages four years ago.
However, on various occasions in the past, these successes over the illustrious rival from the south have proven false dawns for Mexico and often a catalyst for Brazil.
Mexico’s 1-0 win at the 2001 Copa America is a case in point. It was a disastrous tournament for Brazil, who was knocked out by Honduras at the beginning of Luiz Felipe Scolari’s reign. However, that team went on to win the 2002 World Cup in Japan and South Korea just 12 months later. Likewise, at the 2007 Copa America Mexico handed Dunga his first defeat as Brazil coach. Brazil went on to win the tournament, whilst Mexico lost in the semis.
Mexico may have produced some fine performances down the years but when it comes to the crunch games it often fails to deliver, as evidenced by its abysmal recent record in the World Cup knockout stages.
Its defeat to the Netherlands in the last 16 in 2014 was the sixth successive time El Tricolor has been knocked out in the second round.
Mexico last reached the quarterfinals when it hosted the tournament in 1986 and despite featuring at 15 World Cups it has only appeared in the last eight twice, both times as hosts.
If Mexico is to get over the hump and progress to the quarterfinals for the first time in over 30 years, it will have to overcome a Brazil side using the same defensive organization and pace on the counter-attack that did for Germany in the group stages.
However, Brazil is not Germany and possess far more creativity and fluidity going forward, which could cause problems for a Mexican team still reeling from a 3-0 loss to Sweden that almost ended its tournament.
It promises to be an action-packed tie in Samara with both sides susceptible to pace defensively while possessing plenty of speed in attack themselves.
If Mexico can harness the spirit of recent results against Brazil it could record the most impressive victory yet over its illustrious opponents and change recent Mexican World Cup history.