Raúl “Potro” Gutiérrez sent out the same starting line-up from the victory over Italy to face Brazil.
Two Brazilian midfielders were suspended on yellow card accumulation for this match, Gustavo Hebling de Aguiar and Gabriel Boschilia. Both players played against Russia in the quarterfinals and were replaced in the starting line up by Matheus da Cunha Gomes and Kenedy which shows the team’s quality in depth.
First half highlights:
Both teams were prodding each other in the early going. Mexico played much more direct and had the better scoring chances whereas Brazil was winning the midfield battle but hadn’t gotten opportunities on goal.
Brazil’s looks on goal were not a product of prolonged build-ups through the midfield because Mexico’s back four were solid and disciplined. Raúl Gudiño was assertive again, coming off his line to punch out crosses and set pieces in the air.
Mexico had a number of deep free kicks in the game for fouls in the no man’s land between the center of midfield and the attacking area of the field.
Strong work ethic shown by both of Mexico’s fullbacks, Erick Aguirre on the right and Osvaldo Rodríguez on the left. Brazil throws players forward in wide areas but Mexico dealt with every situation, not allowing its opponents to cut the corner to come inside.
Gutiérrez altered Mexico’s tactical formation a bit for this game. Instead of being the target man up top for Mexico, Alejandro Díaz has been back applying defensive pressure while Ulises Jaimes played farthest up the field.
Mexico’s best chance of the first half came from a breakaway by Iván Ochoa. Jaimes held up the ball near half field before laying a pass off to Rivas who knocked a ball over the top for Ochoa. The winger pushed forward into the area but his shot from a tight angle was saved by the Brazilian goalkeeper.
The first half proved to be a tight, tense affair and tempers were near their boiling points. After he cleared the ball from Kenedy, Pedro Terán gave the Brazilian attacking midfielder a playful nudge with his shoulder. Kenedy took exception and jabbed his elbow into the centerback’s chest before smudging his face into Terán’s. By the time the referee arrived on the scene, teammates had pulled the two players apart and the center official gave warnings to both players. In fact, the referee didn’t issue a yellow card until the 79th minute despite several hard challenges throughout the game.
Brazil fashioned another half-chance before the end of the half. Gudiño scuffed his attempted clearance so the ball fell to the feet of Brazil’s Caio instead of sailing to mid-field. Caio took a touch to settle himself before unleashing a shot towards the upper corner. The ball curled just high and wide of the goal but if it had been on frame it would have beaten Gudiño. Again, Brazil’s first half chances were not the result of concentrated possession in Mexico’s half.
More of the same in the second half:
The second half started just as physically as the first half ended. Terán was fouled hard in the air by Brazilian’s center forward Mosquito. Minutes later left back Osvaldo Rodríguez was clipped from behind by Kenedy as he cleared the ball. Rodríguez had be to stretchered off and was replaced by José Robles but this marked the third time the starting fullback was subbed out of a match due to injury.
Christian Tovar comes on for Luis Hernández at the left wing. Shortly after Brazil’s Kenedy was played through with an incisive pass from midfield but Wbias closed him down quickly and the Brazilian attacker dragged his shot well wide of the goal.
Ulises Jaimes continued playing as the farthest attacker up the field for Mexico but he is not particularly adept at receiving the ball out of the air. Díaz is a textbook target forward but Gutiérrez wanted to employ his off the ball, defensive workrate deeper in midfield.
Ulises Rivas is a good bit shorter than most of Brazil’s midfielders but Mexico’s captain made up for his size with a strong workrate. This physical approach resulted in a number of free kicks for Brazil but Mexico’s defense cleared all of them without incident.
Mexico took its time with set pieces, both free kicks and corners, and ran a number of pre-arranged plays. Late in the game, the El Tri’s gameplan became clear; take advantage of set pieces and then defend for the rest of the game.
Mexico’s supersub in this tournament, Marco Granados, replaced Jaimes in the 77th minute and took up the role of chasing down long balls. After beating Leo Pareira to one such ball, Granados slowed down to hold up play and wait for his teammates to get forward. Pareira was impatient defending and slid in from behind on Granados even though the players were near the sideline. The Brazilian earned himself a booking for clipping both of Granados’s legs with his challenge.
Rivas played the ensuing free kick low into the box. Díaz lost his marker to get open and took a powerful shot near the top of the 18-yard box. The shot deflected off a defender and came to Ochoa who redirected the ball with a clever right footed back heel flick at the far post. After defending for much of the game, Mexico had a 1-0 lead in the 80th minute.
After Mexico’s goal the Brazilian coach looked very worried and his forwards were visibly frustrated. Mexico had defended them very tight and not allowed any space for Brazil to operate. Just as Brazil’s Eduardo was booked for dissent and others were close to losing their focus, Nathan gave the team a lifeline.
Attacking right back Auro advanced down the flank to play in a dangerous cross. The ball bounced off a Brazilian player in the area before Terán tried to clear his lines. That attempted clearance fell to Nathan 20 yards from goal and his shot is blocked well by Wbias. Nathan picked up his rebound, though, and smashed his second shot in at the near post past Gudiño.
Just five minutes after going ahead, Mexico conceded a late equalizer. With just five minutes plus stoppage time remaining in regulation, the momentum of the match swung definitively towards Brazil. Despite a smothering of possession in the dying minutes, Mexico holds on to send the game to a penalty shoot-out.
A Crazy Shootout:
Brazil shot first and center forward Mosquito stutter-stepped in his approach before dispatching his penalty to the right side. Raúl Gudiño actually got a hand to the shot but he couldn’t prevent the shot from going in anyway. Alejando Díaz was Mexico’s first penalty taker and he smashed his shot, going for power over placement.
Nathan was second to step up for Brazil and shot to his left. Gudiño dove correctly, got a hand to the shot again, but still watched the ball go into the net. Iván Ochoa had a stutter-step approach and buried his shot just inside the right-hand post. Brazil’s keeper dove to the right side but Ochoa’s shot was aimed perfectly.
Lucas easily nets Brazil’s third penalty before Ulises Rivas takes the ball for Mexico. Rivas had been carrying the team forward for much of the tournament and most spectators expected the captain to sink his shot. Perhaps the pressure got to him as Rivas took a horrible penalty to his right side at the exact height for Marcos to save.
Both Danilo and young Erick Aguirre scored their respective penalties. Gabriel Barbosa initially lined up to the left of the ball before side-stepping to the right and shooting low to his left. Gudiño read the sequence perfectly and saved the shot, which made coach Gutiérrez go nuts on the sideline. Centerback Salomón Wbias coolly chipped his penalty into the center of the net with what pundits dub a panenka, named after former Czechoslovak player Antonín Panenka.
With the score level, the next six shooters for each team converted their spot kicks. Because Brazil shot first, every penalty was a must-score for the Mexican players. Every player on the field took a penalty so the order was repeated. Mosquito stepped up to take his second penalty took a stuttered approach again. The shot was at a similar height to Rivas’s failed attempt and Gudiño saves it beautifully.
Club America’s Alejandro Díaz didn’t dwell on the moment but quickly lined up his potential game-winning penalty. Marcos dove the wrong way as Díaz almost ripped a hole in the corner of the net with his shot; an absolute bullet to win the game for Mexico 11-10 in a shootout.
Despite being outshot 11 to 4, Mexico took the lead in regulation and outlasted Brazil in a shootout to advance to the semifinals. Even though neither team shot particularly accurately in regulation, the future stars drew the penalty shootout to the 12th frame.
Mexico will face Argentina in the semifinals on November 5 for a chance to play in the final.