Mexico and Brazil face off Wednesday in Group A of the 2013 Confederations Cup. After a disjointed 2-1 loss to Italy in its opening game, Mexico needs a result to have any hopes of surviving this tournament’s “group of death.” Brazil smoked Japan 3-0 over the weekend and the talented young team looks ready to turn a corner.
The game will be a reunion of hyped teams that know each other well—it’s been a series of wild ones over the last 15 years. But is Mexico vs. Brazil a legitimate soccer rivalry?
In terms of cultural contempt from the nations, it’s not. Pele’s Brazil won a World Cup in Mexico City and since then the North Americans have been captivated and supportive of the Selecao’s rhythmic, inventive soccer. When Brazil plays European powers like Germany, Mexicans are a prime delegation of cheerleaders. The soccer nations exist in different tiers, and bad blood has never flowed like it has against, say, Argentina.
Yet Mexico has won 7 of its last 14 against Brazil, including two of the last three.
Brazil’s victory was a 2-1 friendly in Mexico back in 2011; Mexico’s a 2-0 friendly in Dallas, and a 2-1 coup at Wembley Stadium during the London 2012 Olympics. Eight Mexicans and six Brazilians from last summer’s Olympic squads—including headliners Neymar, Oscar, Thiago Silva, and Hulk—are on their respective senior teams.
“We must be wary of Mexico and get over that hurdle,” Brazilian coach Luiz Felipe Scolari said this week. “Mexico have been making life complicated for us for a few years now.”
As a tequila sipping Mexican, I’ve enjoyed the run of precarious success. As a pragmatic sports writer, this revenge game has the potential to get ugly because Brazil’s youngsters are playing with confident fluidity and Mexico is in a year-long funk. Team captain Francisco “Maza” Rodriguez looked amateur defending Italy’s Mario Balotelli Sunday–giving away the ball twice inside his half during that game’s first 15 minutes, smoked by Balotelli for the game-winner in the 78th minute.
But with international soccer’s nature of sparse meetings, history hangs over games like a guillotine. It likes El Tri–especially when we factor out the friendlies. Let’s go to the tape.