Neymar and Roberto Firmino scored second-half goals as five-time champion Brazil advanced to its seventh consecutive World Cup quarterfinal with a 2-0 victory Monday over Mexico in Samara.
It was the second goal in three matches for Neymar, who took another step closer to personal redemption after a back injury ended his World Cup in the quarterfinals in his home country four years ago. He poked home a cross from Willian in the 51st minute to open the scoring for the Selecao, who improved to 4-1-0 all-time in the World Cup versus Mexico.
Roberto Firmino secured the victory in the 88th minute, also slotting from close range. Neymar stormed in from the left, drawing Mexico keeper Memo Ochoa off his line. While Ochoa got a fingertip to Neymar’s right-footed shot-turned-cross, it diverted the ball right into Firmino’s path for a simple finish.
Ochoa was admirable in defeat for El Tri, finishing with eight saves, but it was not enough to end the streak of round of 16 exits from reaching seven. Mexico has progressed out of group play in seven consecutive World Cups starting with 1994 but again failed to reach the quarterfinals for the first time since serving as host in 1986.
Brazil became the sixth different country to deny Mexico the “quintido partido” it has so desperately sought, joining Bulgaria (1994), Germany (1998), the United States (2002), Argentina (2006, 2010) and the Netherlands (2014).
In addition to failing to beat Brazil for the first time at the World Cup, Mexico has been outscored 13-0 in those five matches.
The Selecao will now take on the winner of the Belgium-Japan match in the quartefinals Saturday in Kazan.
Mexico started the better team, however, finding space down both flanks while pinning Brazil backs Filipe Luis and Fagner back in their own half. Fagner, in particular, was having a torrid time as first Andres Guardado, then Carlos Vela and the newly blonde-haired Chicharito Hernandez all took turns testing him going down the left side.
El Tri won three corners in the first quarter-hour, but none of them failed to generate any threatening scoring chances. On the quarter-hour, Hirving Lozano tried to pick out Hernandez with a diagonal cross from the right, but it was just beyond the West Ham striker.
Hector Herrera should have done better in the 22nd minute when Vela found him at the top of the penalty area, but by the time Herrera switched onto his favored left foot, Brazil’s defense had successfully closed him down to block the shot.
Neymar showed his attacking intent shortly thereafter, forcing Ochoa off his line as Brazil began to flex its offensive muscle. Ochoa was forced into a punch clearance as El Tri’s defense was in a scramble mode, but Philippe Coutinho blazed over the bar.
In the 40th minute, Neymar tried a 30-yard free kick from the left after being fouled from Edson Alvarez, but he curled it well wide of the near post. Two minutes later, Ochoa did well to punch out a cross by Willian as the teams went to intermission scoreless.
Mexico coach Juan Carlos Osorio swapped out 39-year-old defender Rafa Marquez at halftime, with the five-time World Cup veteran’s effectiveness waning in the heat of Samara, for Miguel Layun.
Still, it did not stop the waves of pressure Brazil was rolling as the match resumed. Neymar and Coutinho played a short corner in the 48th minute as they caught El Tri’s backline napping, but Ochoa saved their blushes by parrying a blistering shot from 15 yards by Coutinho.
Neymar started his goal with a backheel pass to Willian at the top of the penalty area on the left. Willian was able to cut into the penalty area and send a low cross that eluded both Ochoa and Brazil striker Gabriel Jesus, but Neymar was there to slide-touch it home for his sixth World Cup goal in nine matches.
Mexico won a corner straightaway after the goal, but Layun’s shot was deflected and calmly caught by Alisson. Ochoa, though, was the far busier of the two keepers as he denied Paulinho from 15 yards in the 58th minute.
Mexico’s hopes for finding an equalizer took a hit on the hour when Hernandez had to be removed due to injury, with Osorio forced to burn his final substitution by introducing Raul Jimenez. Vela finally forced Alisson into a moment of work, as the AS Roma keeper punched a curling long-range effort over the bar.
In the 65th minute, Lozano fizzed a low cross from the right across goal that went unanswered. Five minutes later, Neymar continued his trend of exaggerating the agony of the fouls he has suffered after being stamped by Layun on the left sideline.
The last half-hour was a masterclass by Brazil in soaking pressure and blocking shots as Alisson had little work to do in preventing an equalizer from El Tri. In the 80th minute, Tite added to the steel of Brazil by bringing in Fernandinho as he and Casemiro helped the back four.
Thiago Silva did well to earn a goal kick for Brazil as he challenged Lozano just in front of the end line on the left and playing the ball off the Mexico winger. El Tri continued to have spells of possession with little to show for an end product as they finished with one shot on goal in 13 attempts.