Mexico manager Juan Carlos Osorio says his side is facing the best team in the world in Monday's round of 16 contest.
The Colombian tactician knows Brazilian football well, having coached Sao Paulo prior to taking over El Tri. That stint included a 1-1 draw with current Brazil and former Corinthians coach Tite, and Osorio didn't hesitate to praise the skill of the opposing team.
"I think Brazil is a great team," said Osorio. "I’d dare to say it’s the best in the world because, collectively, all the players have the ability to control and pass the ball really well. They’ve got collective behaviors like Spain, like Germany. There are three fundamental things - first players who arrive like Paulinho and Coutinho. They have three attackers at a high level, maybe four or five - Neymar, Willian, Coutinho, Gabriel Jesus and Douglas Costa if he’s in the game. It’s a super team. The defenders have good aerial game, the fullbacks come into the attack like few can.
"They have a coach Tite who is a high-level coach who, aside from knowing how to mix players really well, he always has a strong center with Fernandinho and Casemiro, and so I think it’s a great chance for Mexican football to face the best team in the world in the round of 16 and I think if we play to our potential it’s going be a great game of soccer."
Despite Brazil's ability, Osorio said he won't be tempted to back things in and play a defensive game - with the coach pointing to previous examples in the tournament of teams who looked to keep Brazil from scoring and failed to do so.
"In our game tomorrow, we’re going to fight for possession," he said. "We’ve got midfielders with a lot of quality and I think we can have numerical superiority with our wingers coming back and try to have the ball.
"It’s a titanic task against a great team, but we’re going to try. When we can we’ll attack, obviously when the game gives us chances where we can attack in the transition from defense to attack, but the thought isn’t to go out and try to pack it in our own box. Brazil in the final third has really high skill and eventually they’d end up scoring a goal like they’ve showed against the teams who have tried to defend them by sitting back."
El Tri once again find themselves on the doorstep of history. The Mexico national team never has qualified for the quarterfinals in a World Cup that took place outside Mexico.
Midfielder Hector Herrera also labeled Brazil the best team in the world, but said there are plenty of reasons he and the rest of the players in the squad think this will be different than the last six times Mexico has arrived to the round of 16.
"We believe in our work, in our quality and in the group of human beings we have. I think it’s excellent," Herrera said. "The union, the happiness, everything that brings this group together, it makes us think that we can conquer important things together, transcending as a country, as players, as people, I think this is something that makes us really strong. Like I said the confidence there is in the group and every player, the coach, and every part of the coaching staff and staff is really important. It’s something that is going to take us through."
The match kicks off at 6 p.m. local time in Samara, 9 a.m. ET.
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