Player ratings for Brazil’s 2-0 victory against Mexico.  

10=An all-time great performance.

9=A world-class performance.

8=Outstanding performance, but not one we’ll be talking about in years to come.

7=A very good performance, though not quite dominant.  

6=Contributed to the game, but mostly on the margins.  

5=A mixed bag, but ultimately average or slightly below.

4=Mediocre.  

3=Actively hurt the team.

2=You’ll probably need therapy after this.  Or at least I will.

1=Run away, Simba.  Run away and never return.  

Alisson – 5

Looked shaky dealing with high balls on several occasions, and wasn’t exactly impactful with his delivery.  Lucky not to be seriously tested for most of the match.  While he certainly hasn’t disgraced himself, Alisson has yet to really prove himself as Taffarel’s heir, despite being essentially handpicked by Taffarel himself.

Fagner – 5.5

Was tried and found wanting in the first half, as Mexico targeted him again and again.  Required constant supervision from Thiago Silva, who was seen encouraging him to be more proactive in defense.  Recovered and had a solid second half, even winning multiple duels.

Two things are true about Fagner: He’s not really a World Cup caliber full-back.  But he’s also a hard-working, diligent player who seems to understands his own limitations and strives to play within them.  He may yet be Brazil’s undoing, but it’s hard to fault him.  He’s doing the best with what he has, and has earned the right to continue starting.

Filipe Luis – 5.5

I was worried about Filipe’s lack of pace, and the first half proved I was right to do so.  Just didn’t have the foot speed for many 1v1 duels, although he did make some vital blocks and tackles.  Like Fagner, he tightened up considerably in the second half mainly through more conservative positioning and kept a relatively quiet flank.  That dampened his impact on the other side of the game, though, as he got forward less than I’ve ever seen him.  Still, was calm and unharried in possession.  Will probably be dropped for Marcelo, which is a shame, because it’s actually the Belgium game where I think he’d be most essential.  Still, if this was his last showing, he can feel good about the role he played in seeing Brazil through to the quarterfinals.  Hopefully Marcelo will have benefited from the rest, as well.

Thiago Silva – 9

Imperious.  Commanding.  A true captain’s performance.  He was everywhere Brazil needed him to be.  The mark of a good defender can rarely be found in stats like tackles and interceptions, important as those are.  The mark of a good defender is someone who forces the opposition to turn away, to pass backward, to retreat, so that the defender doesn’t have to “win” the ball at all.  Thiago Silva excels at that, as he showed today.  As usual, was immaculate in possession.

I await Tim Vickery’s mea culpa for questioning his inclusion.

Miranda – 8 

A few nervous moments in the first half, and I thought some of his clearances were a little on the aimless side.  Still, cut an imposing figure throughout, throwing his entire body in front of the ball when necessary.  After the opening 25 minutes, Mexico never looked likely to get past him.  Continues to show Scolari what he was missing four years ago.  So here I’ll offer a mea culpa of my own.  I was never against his selection, although I did prefer Marquinhos.  But Miranda has been vital.

Casemiro – 8

A mammoth presence in the midfield.  Has to cover so much ground for so many of his teammates.  Passing was simple but clean.  While Fernandinho is a capable replacement, Brazil will miss him on Friday, due to a yellow card that wasn’t really his fault.

Paulinho – 4 

After rallying his disciples with a well-taken goal against Serbia, The Paulinho came back to earth against Mexico.  Offered nothing in the midfield, barely seeing the ball and doing nothing with it when he had it.  Had once great chance to score but could only shoot straight at Ochoa.  His replacement, Fernandinho, did more with five touches than Paulinho did with forty.

No doubt he’s just biding his time until he scores the winning goal in the final.

Coutinho – 5.5

Looked off the pace from the opening whistle.  A few neat touches and interchanges with Neymar, but was very quiet.  When he did get the ball in dangerous positions, looked far too anxious to get onto his right foot.  Was understandably gassed in the second half, after carrying Brazil through the group stages.  Should have been rested much sooner.  He needs to be much sharper on Friday against – in all probability – rivals Hazard and De Bruyne.

Willian – 8.5

Was so, so poor in the first half.  Consistently found himself on the losing side of 50-50 balls.  Betrayed a heavy touch on more than one occasion.

Then, something changed.  He came out with guns blazing in the second half, attacking open space with his first touch, driving at the opposition, and causing havoc.  He looked like the Willian who consistently saved Brazil under Dunga.  Assisted Neymar’s goal thanks to a wonderful first touch and a driven cross.

Willian has looked flat-footed throughout this WC, but his feet came alive in the second half.  He’s always been at his best when he’s able to pick up the ball in pockets of space rather than with his back to the touchline.  I would be interested to re-watch the match to see if there was some tactical change.  Brazil definitely changed from a horribly flat 4-1-4-1 to the rarely seen 4-4-2 midway through the first half.  The entire team seemed to benefit; I wonder if somehow, Willian did, too.

More of this, please.

Neymar – 7.5

I might be a little stingy with this score, but it’s Neymar and we expect a lot.  Continues to play more sensibly and maturely after his early struggles.  His dribbling still hasn’t really come back yet, and probably won’t until he regains his balance and quick-twitch reflexes.  But combined with his teammates effectively and threatened throughout.

Let’s talk about his goal.  On the surface, a simple tap in.  But I thought it illustrated the single greatest difference between international Neymar and international Messi.   Neymar’s backheel was an example of how his inventiveness can change the game.  Even more important was that he then continued his run to get into a goal-scoring position.  International Messi seldom does that.  He wants to conduct, not descend into the orchestra itself.  Neymar’s a percussionist who will play snare drum one moment (setting things up), timpani the next (ominous drum beats, something’s about to happen!), before finishing it all off with a clash of cymbals.

Pundits will focus once again on his histrionics, but pundits – even the best of them – too often prefer ready-made narratives over actual analysis.  We may not see Neymar in full-flight during this tournament, but if you go back and watch them again, we didn’t actually see Ronaldo or even Romario in full-flight either when they won their respective cups.  Instead, we got winning plays.

That’s what we got from Neymar today.

Gabriel Jesus – 5.5

I’m being a little generous with this one.  Continues to offer little goal-scoring threat.  But he worked his ass off in defense, even switching to left wingback in the second half.  It’s a credit to him that he’s willing to do the dirty work when asked.

I’m still a believer in him long term.  But at the very least, he needs to be offering MUCH better hold-up play in this tournament.

Firmino – 7

Hungry from the moment he came on, and was rewarded with a tap-in for his efforts.  Showed a few classy touches and continues to provide tantalizing glimpses of what he could offer as a starter.

The idea of him starting in the midfield in place of Paulinho is, to me, a mouth-watering one.

Also, made three (!) tackles in his 10 minutes on the pitch.

Fernandinho – 7

Had 5 touches and 4 passes in the little time he was on the pitch.  That one touch was a vital interception, and one of those four passes launched the counter that led to Firmino’s goal.  A cameo, but one worthy of an A-list actor.

Tite – 6

Opened with some puzzling selections and a formation Brazil haven’t used in a long time.  It was a disaster.  Thankfully, he corrected his mistakes throughout, which led directly to Brazil taking control of the match.  Whatever he said at half-time jump-started Willian.

Still, waited far too long to make obvious substitutions, which is why he doesn’t get a higher score.  Hopefully his tendency to overly rely on his starting XI won’t hurt Brazil later on, especially as the team’s depth is their greatest strength.