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Brazil eye World Cup last 16

2014-06-17 14:14
Luiz Felipe Scolari (AFP)

Fortaleza - Brazil can complete part one of their Soccer World Cup mission on Tuesday against Mexico, knowing a victory will virtually ensure a place in the last 16 and help relieve some of the huge emotional pressure.

The five-time champions opened their campaign with a 3-1 win over Croatia while Mexico edged Cameroon 1-0.

Mexico shattered Brazil's dream of winning the only major prize missing from their honours list two years ago, when they stunned the South Americans 2-1 to claim the Olympic gold medal.

Brazil striker Hulk insists there is no question of Brazil looking to settle a score at Fortaleza's Castelao Stadium, the same venue where they met in the Confederations Cup last year, when Luiz Felipe Scolari's side claimed a 2-0 victory.

But it is also the site of one of the World Cup's big shocks so far, Costa Rica's 3-1 upset of Copa America winners Uruguay.

"In the Confederations Cup we tried to think only about winning the game and it will be the same this time. If we think about revenge it could cause us problems," said Hulk.

Nevertheless, the Olympic defeat left its mark on him, Thiago Silva, Marcelo, Oscar and Neymar, the five members of Brazil's 2014 squad who featured in that Wembley gold medal match.

"It will certainly be as difficult as last year. In the World Cup there is an extra desire to win and I hope we can do so again this time," said Chelsea's Oscar.

The opening round of group games ends Tuesday with Group H clashes between dark-horses Belgium and Algeria in Belo Horizonte and Fabio Capello's Russia up against South Korea in Cuiaba.

Belgium are blessed with players such as Chelsea playmaker Eden Hazard, powerful striker Romelu Lukaku and Manchester City defender Vincent Kompany.

They have not appeared at a major international championship since the 2002 World Cup but they impressed in qualifying and will fancy their chances of matching their semi-final showing in Mexico in 1986.

Belgium will come up against a side looking to cause an upset of their own to go alongside their shock win over eventual finalists West Germany in 1982.

Despite that famous win, Algeria, taking part in their fourth World Cup, have never gone beyond the group stages.

Key players for the north African side include defender Madjid Bougherra, midfielders Sofiane Feghouli and Medhi Lacen, and forward Islam Slimani.

South Korea's fortunes have nose-dived since 2002 when they turned the formbook on its head by becoming the first Asian side to make it through to the semi-finals.

But before reaching their eighth consecutive World Cup, they struggled in qualifying, squeaking home only on goal difference.

Coach Hong Myung-Bo gained iconic status in Seoul after his side-footed penalty took Guus Hiddink's side into the 2002 World Cup last four.

Russia are back in the World Cup for the first time since 2002, when like in 1994 they failed to make it out of the group stages.

Under Fabio Capello, who guided England to the last 16 in South Africa four years ago, Russia coasted through qualifying and in stark contrast to South Korea are unbeaten in 10 games.

Capello's disciplinarian approach failed to win many friends in the England camp, but it's gone down well with the Russians.

"Capello demands discipline and it's a good thing because everyone is working hard, giving 100 percent in every session," forward Maksim Kanunnikov said.

Meanwhile, the fall-out from Monday's action, which saw Germany rout Portugal 4-0 and African champions Nigeria labour to a 0-0 draw with Iran, continued.

Portugal denied midfielder Raul Meireles gave the referee the finger in his side's stormy loss, insisting that he was merely gesturing a tactical switch.

Pictures on social media show Meireles, who sports a distinctive Mohawk hairstyle, raising the third finger on both hands to referee Milorad Mazic who had sent off Real Madrid defender Pepe.

But the the Portuguese football federation (FPF) defended the Fenerbahce player, claiming there was nothing vulgar about the gesture.

"He was passing on to teammate Bruno Alves the instructions being relayed by coach Paulo Bento," said a FPF statement.


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