FORTALEZA, BRAZIL – Luiz Felipe Scolari and his Brazil squad tried to focus on the positives after a disappointing draw against Mexico in its second World Cup match.
Although Brazil couldn’t manage to score, the veteran coach and his players believe they saw improvement from the opening match, and remain on track for a successful home tournament.
Scolari said he thought Brazil played better than in the 3-1 win over Croatia in the opener.
He and the players also attributed the draw to a fabulous performance by Mexico goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa, who made four outstanding saves that kept the match scoreless.
“The result wasn’t what we wanted, but I’m happy with the improvement that I saw from my team,” Scolari said. “The team played better than it did against Croatia, I think it improved about 10 percent from that match.
“I was pretty happy with what I saw on the pitch. We have the tendency to think that other teams are not good, but Mexico is good, and they played well just as we did.”
The players gave a similar line when they left the locker room on Tuesday.
“Despite the result, we improved as a team,” left back Dani Alves said. “Sometimes the score doesn’t reflect how the match was played. It’s a difficult tournament and you have to play better match after match and I think that’s what happened. We are pleased with our performance.”
Neymar added: “Of course we wanted the victory, but in reality the draw wasn’t a bad result.”
Brazilian media wasn’t so ready to downplay the draw.
“Brazil frustrate fans,” read a headline on the website of the O Globo newspaper.
The Folha de S. Paulo daily, Brazil’s largest, added: “Brazil plays poorly and stops on Mexico’s defense.”
Brazil had won 16 of its previous 17 matches coming into Fortaleza. The only time Scolari’s team hadn’t won was in a 1-0 defeat against Switzerland after last year’s Confederations Cup, the warm-up tournament it won.
“We created enough chances to win the match but their goalkeeper made the saves,” midfielder Oscar said. “At least we didn’t lose. Mexico is a good team. We knew that it was going to be difficult.”
Brazil’s last Group A match is against Cameroon in Brasilia on Monday. The five-time world champion leads the group on goal difference. Croatia and Cameroon were playing their second matches on Wednesday after opening losses.
Scolari said he is likely to make changes to the lineup for the final group match. He rested striker Hulk against Mexico after he missed a couple of training sessions because of a left leg muscle injury.
Although the coach didn’t complain about his team, he was upset with the refereeing.
Scolari thought Brazil deserved a penalty after defender Marcelo was apparently grabbed inside the area in the 88th minute. And he recalled the controversy after Brazil was awarded a penalty when Fred went down following minimal contact from a defender in the opening match.
“So, there won’t be any more penalties for Brazil?” he asked journalists. “Everybody (who) criticized Fred. Speak now.”