After Mexico’s first two warm-up matches provided as many questions as answers about their prospects at the Copa America, El Tri will complete their preparations with a heavyweight clash against Brazil in Sao Paulo on Sunday. Following a 3-0 win over Guatemala, Mexico struggled to a 1-1 draw with Peru on Wednesday as manager Miguel Herrera continued his attempts to develop a team that can make an impact in Chile.
The upcoming Gold Cup in the United States next month has been earmarked as the priority for Mexico’s hectic summer. It means star names like Carlos Vela, Javier “Chicharito” Hernández and Hector Herrera are being held in reserve to challenge for Concacaf superiority, while a more untested squad has been taken south for a tournament for which Mexico are now regular invitees.
Still, Herrera has stressed that his ambitions are not lacking and that going all the way to the final in Chile is a realistic aim. Mexico start their Copa America campaign by taking on Bolivia next Friday before going up against hosts Chile and Ecuador.
Yet his side is still very much coming together. Against Peru there were eight changes to the team that beat Guatemala, and Mexico were overrun for periods before coming back to get a 1-1 draw in Lima thanks to Juan Carlos Valenzuela’s equalizer.
“They pressed us well, but these are the games that make us strong,” Herrera said after the match,” reports the Copa America website. “This was a test, and I will start thinking about our team for the tournament.”
The team selected to take on Brazil then will likely give a strong hint to the one that will line up against Bolivia. That is likely to mean Eduardo Herrera coming into the side up front, with Jesús "Tecatito" Corona another option to bolster the attack, having scored coming off the bench against Guatemala.
Sunday’s encounter is also the continuation of what has been an engrossing rivalry over the years. It has been one that Mexico have achieved a good amount of success in, including a victory over Brazil in the 2007 Copa America as well as holding the hosts to a scoreless result in last year’s World Cup.
For Brazil, the Copa America presents the first serious opportunity to start repairing the monumental damage caused by their semifinal mauling to Germany in their home World Cup. Former coach Dunga was a widely unpopular appointment when he was announced as the successor to Luiz Felipe Scolari, but so far the results have been faultless. In his eight matches in charge, Dunga has led Brazil to victory in every one, including getting the better of Copa America hosts Chile last time out in March.
The former World Cup winning captain has been dealt a couple of significant blows ahead of the tournament, however, with Wolfsburg’s Luiz Gustavo joining Oscar in having to miss out on the Copa America through injury. His options will be further limited against Mexico at Allianz Parque as captain and star man Neymar is involved in the Champions League final with Brazil. Robinho is also a doubt for the friendly after picking up a knee problem in training on Wednesday.
Prediction: Dunga will continue to divide opinion over his reactive style, but there can be no doubting that he has made Brazil a much tougher team to defeat since taking charge. Brazil have taken a competitive edge into all of their friendlies, meaning they should hit the ground running for the Copa America. Without the brilliant Neymar, the Seleção may struggle to pose a concerted attacking threat on Sunday, but they should be too strong for a Mexico side still very much in the process of coming together.
Predicted score: Brazil to beat Mexico, 1-0.