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At halftime: Brazil with chances but no goals against Mexico — FOLLOW LIVE

Jun 17, 2014, 3:54 PM EST

Brazil's Neymar (10) gets away from Mexico's Francisco Rodriguez during the group A World Cup soccer match between Brazil and Mexico at the Arena Castelao in Fortaleza, Brazil, Tuesday, June 17, 2014. (AP Photo/Martin Mejia) AP

Story of the half: An energetic start from Mexico gave way to Brazilian control, with a lack of quality in the middle of the park leaving El Tri unable to build anything going forward. Brazil, on the other hand, fully stressed Mexico’s defense, though missed chances from Fred and Neymar led the teams scoreless at halftime. While Mexico started to assert itself before intermission, it still finished the first period without a shot on target.

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Goals (and how they happened): They didn’t.

Other key moments:

11′ - After an energetic start from Mexico, Brazil gets its first chance down the left, where Oscar has been moved the absence of the injured Hulk. Cutting into the penalty box, the Chelsea midfielder plays a ball to the edge of the six with the outside of his right foot, giving Fred a chance from close range. The Brazilian striker fails to convert, leaving the match scoreless.

13′ - El Tri’s worst nightmare? That hamstrung midfield failing to take care of the ball. Early on, that fear almost came to fruition. Giving Neymar possession at the edge of the attacking third, the Mexico defense watched as Brazil’s most dangerous player was given a chance to choose between targets. When the play ultimately broke down, Mexico were spared, but more questions about the team’s midfield had emerged.

26′ - Mexico gets caught on a counter, but after Neymar’s ball from the left is cleared from the penalty area, Guillermo Ochoa looks like he’ll go untested. Dani Alves, however, thought otherwise, getting to the ball first and hitting a cross to the far corner. There, Neymar out-leaps Rafa Marquez to put a shot at Ochoa’s right post, with a lunging stop allowing Ochoa to keep the match scoreless.

41′ - What’s this? Mexico threatening? Just before halftime, it actually happened. After a clearance from an Andres Guardardo cross is worked back to the middle of the field, Jose Juan Vazquez takes a chance from 28 yards out. For a moment, it looks like the shot could curl inside the right post, but going just wide, the try left César without a save over the first 45 minutes.

43 - A restart fired into the Mexico box sees Paulinho deflect a ball behind the Mexican defense. As El Tri’s line pushes up the field, three Seleçao players are left in front of Ochoa. David Luiz gets to the ball but can’t get it past the Mexican keeper, failing to convert the team’s best chance of the half.

Lineups:

Brazil: Julio Cesar, Dani Alves, Thiago Silva (c), David Luiz, Marcelo, Paulinho, Fred, Neymar, Oscar, Ramires, Luiz Gustavo

Mexico: Ochoa, Rodriguez, Marquez (c), Herrera, Layun, Dos Santos, Moreno, Guardado, Peralta, Aguilar, Vazquez

Key players:

  • Neymar, Brazil - Oscar is having a great tournament, thus far, but with Luiz Felipe Scolari putting his star in the middle of the formation, it’s clear everything revolves around Neymar.
  • Oribe Peralta, Mexico - If Brazil maintains control, Mexico’s hopes will hinge on Peralta stealing a goal. The Santos striker won’t need many chances, but against Thiago Silva and David Luiz, the question is whether he’ll have any.

Numbers to know:

55-45: Possession goes in Brazil’s favor. If effective possession was a thing, the numbers would be even more lopsided, but thanks to Mexico coming into the match by the halftime whistle, the real numbers don’t look so lopsided.
4-0: Shots on target, in Brazil’s favor. In fairness, Hector Herrera had a try from distance that should have been recorded as a shot on target, but with the officials failing to see Júlio César’s touch, Brazil was awarded a goal kick.
11-6: Tackles won, in favor of Brazil. Oscar alone has disposed Mexico five times.

Question for the second half:

  • Does Mexico change it up? And if so, how? Miguel Herrera has done a good job of stabilizing this team, but he hasn’t been able to install a Plan B. If El Tri does change it up — and based on the first half, they’ll need to — it will may be more about personnel than approach.
  • Is Brazil waning? After a spirited Mexico stormed out of the gates, Brazil eventually took control, enjoying 20-25 minutes or primacy. But the end of the half, however, Mexico had started to get a grip on the game. Is that a pattern, or a blip?

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