Mexico doesn't fear next opponent Brazil
Mexico's players were taken aback by the reception that fans gave them outside their hotel Sunday night in Fortaleza, Brazil, as they chanted, sang and danced, willing them on ahead of Tuesday's Group A match against host nation Brazil.
It wasn't one of those slightly awkward, prearranged meet-and-greet type of events players are forced to attend. This was a real, spontaneous coming together of fans and a team that can only really happen at a World Cup. It was a warm show of unity for Mexico after a fractious qualifying campaign. It could yet be the defining moment for El Tri at Brazil 2014.
The show of support from fans highlighted a growing confidence and a belief that Mexico can pull off the shock of the tournament so far and get something against the heavily favored hosts in their most important match since their round-of-16 game against Argentina four years ago.
The feeling in Mexico is that Brazil holds no fear for El Tri. And the hosts have acknowledged that.
The most recent Mexican success in this series came in the Olympic final in 2012, when Brazil's star names were outworked and out-thought by El Tri. The result was Mexico snatching away the gold medal that would've completed Brazil's clean sweep of victories in major footballing competitions.
It was a bitter blow to the verde-amarela in their buildup to hosting the World Cup and one that gives Mexico both hope and a blueprint for success ahead of Tuesday's clash.
"We know how to play them and if we get the ball off them, we can do them damage," said Oribe Peralta -- Mexico's Olympic hero -- last week in widely published quotes. "Both teams like to have the ball. We like to be attacking and also to pressurize. It'll be a very good game to watch."
Mexico's other major achievement on the world stage also came against Brazil, in the 1999 Confederations Cups final, with El Tri winning 4-3.
Then there was that under-17 final in 2005 in Peru, in which Mexico dispatched Brazil 3-0 and current players like Giovani dos Santos and Hector Moreno, as well as exiled Carlos Vela, first made a name for themselves.
And there's already been a team from CONCACAF upsetting the apple cart and defeating a more-favored South American nation in Arena Castelao this World Cup, when Costa Rica beat Uruguay 3-1 on Saturday.
Coupled with Mexico's pleasing performance against Cameroon and Brazil's slightly fortunate win over Croatia, there is reason for confidence. But past games will not necessarily make the task easier against the favorites to lift the World Cup in Maracana on July 13.
It will still take an immense performance to stop Brazil at home. Reducing the space Neymar and Oscar operate in will be key, as will not giving the ball away easily and using it with intelligence. The battle on the flanks promises to be fascinating, with Brazil piling its full-backs forward and Mexico's wing-backs also very inclined to attack. There should be plenty of space for both teams going forward down the wings.
All the pressure, however, is on Brazil to win and do so in style. Mexico is the underdog, going into the game with no one outside the country expecting much.
From Mexico's point of view, if this match was against Argentina or one of the big European countries that seem to have a hold on El Tri, the whole atmosphere surrounding the game would be different. But this is Brazil, and Mexico believes that si se puede (yes, it's possible). And its not one of those desperate si se puede chants backing against all the odds: Mexico genuinely fancies their chances of an upset on Tuesday.