When Brazil take the pitch on Wednesday to square off vs Mexico in the second round of the Confederations Cup, there will be more on the line than a place in the semi-finals. Both enter the match fully fit and fresh, but where does the value lie? Let's take a closer look.
In the Summer Olympics final in London, Mexico pulled off the unlikely upset and defeated Brazil 2-1. This win was preceded by another Mexico victory over Brazil just two months prior. So will the samba side view this as a grudge match?
Not according to Brazilian captain Thiago Silva.
Most players will say something along these lines in order to avoid giving the opposition any bullitin board material, but in this case there may be some truth to it.
When it comes to Brazilian football, winning is never enough. They must also win with flair and style. Yet, there is another undercurrent to this Confederations Cup run - social unrest.
In their opening match, roughly 3000 civilians were outside the stadium in protest. The country abroad is in the midst of an uprising of sorts over a variety of social issues and usually the football is a form of escape and distraction. However, this time football itself is part of the discontent. Up to 170,000 people could be affected by the upcoming World Cup and Olympic plans and figures to be an ongoing source of strife. The widespread party atmosphere is not what it usually is for a major tournament.
As if this Brazil squad needed anymore pressure to perform, they'll surely need to keep the fans happy with a result on the scoreboard.
What to Watch For
The Mexico side has it's fair share of experience as eight players have 50+ caps to their name, but the 25 year old Hernandez will need to step up his game and provide a lot of the spark if they expect to win this game. In support, Chicharito and dos Santos will need to do a lot of the heavy lifting up front, while Torrado stabilizes as much possession as possible in the middle.
The question always facing Mexico in international play is their comfort level outside of CONCACAF.
Putting the pressure on will be superstar Neymar, who didn't disappoint in the opening match. Oscar and Luiz need to continue developing their chemistry in the middle. The best way to avoid any defensive blunders will be to press Mexico as much as possible and ride the wave of momentum on their side.
Mexico would love to play the spoiler once again, but they just might be facing Brazil at the worst possible time. They are already outmatched on paper and the motivation factor for Brazil is as high as ever in this particular situation. Look for a strong start from Brazil and more than couple goals by the final whistle.
Prediction: Brazil -.5 1st Half (-116) and Total over 2.5/3 goals (-112).