Mexico were heading for defeat in the last 16 for the seventh World Cup in a row as Neymar put five-time world champions Brazil ahead in Samara on Monday afternoon. Midway through a sleek second half from Brazil, a commotion broke out in front of the Mexico bench and it took a matter of seconds to work out who lay at its heart. Tite had suggested on Sunday that it will take another four or five games for Neymar to be at his best after recovering from the metatarsal injury that had, at one stage, threatened his full participation in the tournament.
Brazil leads Mexico 1-0. It might not be a deserving lead, but the goal was a testament to the quality of the Brazil side and the brilliance of Neymar.
Brazil, which last won the World Cup in 2002, will now line up in its quarter-final match against the victor of today's second match between Belgium and Japan. Asked about his performances in Russian Federation he added: "I am content about what I did at this World Cup but I can't really be happy because we did not go through".
Given his contribution, Neymar should have garnered only positive headlines, but he was the centre of attention for the wrong reasons too after overreacting to a challenge from Miguel Layun in the closing stages.
Neymar has hit back at those criticizing his behavior during Brazil's 2-0 victory over Mexico on Monday as trying "to undermine" him and throw him off his game, according to reports. Defensive solidity is paramount; Brazil know they have the players who can score aplenty at the other end.
That is not to say that they were not under the cosh in the early stages, however, as Hirving Lozano had an effort blocked after two minutes, as did Hector Herrera, but as the first half wore on, Brazil got on top in the stifling Samara heat. "We will need to play an awesome game tomorrow and continue to live the dream". With Mexico pushing numbers forward, Neymar and Firmino were launched on a counterattack and when Neymar's right-footed shot from the left side strayed, Firmino was there to tap it in to secure the win.
That allowed Firmino, a second-half substitute who had come on just two minutes earlier, to tack on an insurance goal in the 88th minute.
Neymar yelped in pain and writhed around on the ground, even though it appeared obvious that Layun, whose heel was on the ground, could not have put any real weight on his opponent.
"Each and every one of their players can control the ball and pass the ball very well". In a delayed reaction, Neymar made the most of Layun stepping on his ankle, rolling around with his hand covering his eyes.