Brazil were again short of their best as Mexico held them to a goalless draw, thanks in no small part to Mexico goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa.
Chelsea duo Ramires and Oscar both started for the hosts, as they aimed to make it two wins from two and practically seal their passage from the group stage. Willian started on the bench, and newly-departed David Luiz started again at the heart of the defence, alongside his new team-mate Thiago Silva.
Scolari had said he would show Mexico respect, as no team has beaten them more since 2000 and were unlucky not to beat them again in 2013 Confederations Cup. It continued that way at the Estadio Castelao, as they more than held their own.
Star man Neymar was again key for Brazil as his skill and talent gave the Mexican defenders a nightmare start. A cross from Barcelona team-mate Dani Alves was met powerfully at the back post which Ochoa denied with a delightful save low to his right.
Ochoa was at it again before the break denying Paulinho’s close range effort following a free kick.
Mexico did create chances of their own, and during one period looked very much the better of the two sides as they forced Julio Cesar into numerous saves, and Oribe Peralta in particular looked like the man to give Mexico a shock – but certainly deserved – lead.
Ramires was substituted at the half time and the introduction of Bernard in his place helped give Brazil a bit more zip in their attacking play, but still were not quite in their attacking verve that they are renowned for.
Bernard did have a near instant impact though, as his cross found Neymar at the back post, who could only contrive to volley at the indomitable Ochoa.
Neymar was again at the heart of things, putting a free-kick wide and drawing another great save from Ochoa. Thiago Silva fired a point blank header from six yards out towards Ochoa, who produced a marvellous reaction stop to deny Brazil the lead.
It was a game where Brazil showed a certain reliance towards the brilliance and game-changing ability of Neymar and Oscar, who had a quieter game than he did against Croatia. The introduction of the stylish Bernard for the grafting Ramires failed to help, and Fred produced a toothless display upfront, failing to quieten his critics. His replacement, ex-Manchester City and Everton striker Jo, did not do much better. Paulinho and Luis Gustavo in the middle of the park lacked that spark that they showed glimpses of against Croatia, and in truth Brazil’s standing at the top of Group A with 4 points is rather fortuitous.
Andres Guardado fired a shot over late on for the Mexicans, while Raul Jimenez also drilled an effort in forcing a save from Julio Cesar as they finished the game with real desire and belief that they could silence the fantastic atmosphere in Fortaleza. Willian appeared late on, but failed to impart any real influence.
A draw does put both teams in the driving seat for qualification to the knockout stages though. With Croatia and Cameroon yet to meet, the loser of that game will be the first team eliminated from the 2014 World Cup. However, if Brazil are to advance deep into the competition they were so heavily fancied for they desperately need to improve their performances.
For a side with such attacking quality – in Neymar, Oscar and Hulk they possess three real world-class players – they often look suspect elsewhere and if any one of those three are not firing, Brazil often look despondent and struggle to compete. One may wonder if Brazil were to make it out the group and faced a side like the Netherlands or Chile, whether or not they would be taken apart. The Chelsea trio may well be heading back to Stamford Bridge sooner than expect unless performances can improve and very quickly.