A 2-0 victory for the home team provides welcome distraction amid nationwide anti-government protests. Gary Meenaghan reports from Brazil.
Confederations Cup: Brazil in emotional win over Mexico
Brazil 2 Mexico 0
Man of the match: Neymar
FORTALEZA, Brazil // Brazil, galvanised by a passionate rendition of their national anthem, produced a high-tempo performance in front of their home fans to beat Mexico 2-0 and plant one foot in the semi-finals of the Confederations Cup.
With the country embroiled in widespread protests, the national team brought a welcome distraction from the events on the streets and the fans showed their support with a deafening delivery of the Brazilian anthem. Oscar was seen with tears in his eyes, while David Luiz would later call it "one of the most beautiful moments of my life".
When the action got under way it was Neymar, the 21 year old on whose shoulders lie the expectations of 200 million Brazilians, who opened the scoring, netting his second volley in four days after just nine minutes. Mexico rallied in the second half but could not find an equaliser and substitute Jo added a second for the Selecao in added time.
Luiz Felipe Scolari, the imposing Brazil coach, named an unchanged line-up from the one that beat Japan 3-0 on Saturday. Mexico meanwhile made just one change to the team that lost 2-1 to Italy by drafting in defender Jorge Torres in place of Jesus Zavala.
El Tri are considered somewhat of a bogey team for Brazil having beaten them six times in the past 11 encounters since beating them in the final of the 1999 Confederations Cup. Yet Brazil showed no sign of nerves as they started at lightning pace, dominating the midfield and looking dangerous on the wings.
Oscar, the Chelsea midfielder, had the ball in the back of the net after just five minutes, but Neymar was rightly called offside. Four minutes later there was no such doubt, Dani Alves's cross being headed away only as far as Neymar, his future Barcelona teammate, who struck a perfect, powerful volley past Jose Corona to send the capacity crowd into a frenzy.
Provider could have turned goalscorer a few minutes later, but Alves's delightful angled lob from distance was tipped over the crossbar. The effort seemed to wake Mexico up and Jose Manuel de la Torre's side began to see more of the ball. They almost benefited from some kamikaze defending by Marcelo, who tried to casually clear a loose ball in the area and lost possession, but the resultant shot failed to trouble Julio Cesar in the Brazil goal.
The first half ended scrappily with both sides conceding niggling free-kicks. Thiago Silva, the Brazil captain, was booked for a needless tackle on Javier Hernandez, while Mexico's Andres Guardado also went into referee Howard Webb's book.
Silva came close to doubling the Selecao lead just minutes into the second half, but again the officials correctly adjudged the goal to be offside. Hulk should have done better in the 55th minute after played in on goal by a clever Neymar lob. The Zenit St Petersburg striker's first touch let him down though and his shot found the side netting.
Brazil's inability to add a second gave Mexico hope and the introduction of Hector Herrera saw El Tri enjoy more possession without really testing Cesar. The home side were starting to look nervous as their opponents, who needed a result to remain in the competition, started getting in behind the full-backs.
Lucas Moura replaced Hulk while Jo came in for Fred as Scolari looked to tighten up and retain the lead. Mexico continued to push, but it was ultimately left to Neymar to steal the show once more. The former Santos forward cut in from the left wing, jinking between two defenders and playing a perfect pass into the patch of Jo, who casually side-footed home to ensure Brazil will progress so long as they avoid defeat to Italy on Saturday.
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