Mexico have managed to make it out of Confederations Cup Group A as runners-up, setting up a semifinal clash against World Champions Germany. And while advancing out of the group is all well and good, there are a few aspects of Mexico’s play thus far that should worry fans of El Tri.
The objective for Mexico heading into this summer’s Confederations Cup was to reach the semifinals of the competition, and the team did just that after beating Russia 2-1 on Saturday in Kazan. Still, fans and critics alike are less than pleased after the lackluster performance of the team in all three group games.
Mexico’s opener against Portugal started off well. El Tri was able to dominate possession of the ball and mounted continuous pressure in the Portuguese defensive third. However, shots on goal failed to materialize, and after a solid run of possession the team found themselves a goal down. Chicharito would go on to score an equalizing goal only moments later and both teams would go into the locker room at halftime in a stalemate.
Chicharito’s goal before half time would signal the beginning of what would become a slew of come-from-behind results. Mexico would go on to concede one more goal before evening the score in the final minutes of the match. The draw against Portugal put El Tri in an advantageous position heading into their final group games. The second group game against New Zealand should have been a straightforward affair, leaving the team well prepared for the final group match against Russia.
Unfortunately, for El Tri and their fans, the game against New Zealand was anything but a straightforward affair.
Mexico manager Juan Carlos Osorio is notorious for player rotations, and he did little to silence his critics when he made a slew of changes against the All-Whites. The result was somewhat of a mess. El Tri were down at halftime, bringing back memories of the ill-fated 2016 Olympic campaign when the team found themselves down against Fiji.
In both cases, against Fiji and New Zealand, Mexico were able to come back and win the match. However, El Tri never should have been in those positions in the first place. Yet, despite these setbacks Mexico have been able to show their resilience in difficult situation, something that has served them well thus far in this summer’s Confederations Cup.
Against Russia, the team managed to dominate possession, as they did against Portugal and New Zealand earlier in the competition. Yet much like the previous matches the team failed to create solid chances, allowing Russia to take the lead on the back of defensive errors.
For all Mexico have been through thus far, the team has been very fortunate. In the game against New Zealand, a brawl erupted minutes before the final whistle. In many ways, the clash reflected the sense of frustration Mexico had been feeling throughout the match. Truth be told, El Tri were a little lucky to come away without any reds after the incident.
The fact remains that Mexico have a lot to improve on. Technically the team plays well. They move the ball around and are able to maintain long stretches of possession. They move for each other and there is clearly a sense of chemistry when the team is playing at full strength.
But that’s just it, Mexico doesn’t always play at full strength, and that’s largely due to Osorio.
While Osorio might be trying to give players a rest, his constant rotations sometimes leave the team struggling against what should be lesser opposition. Moreover, the Mexican defense has been letting the team down quite frequently.
As stated previously, the team has yet to open the scoring in any match throughout the Confederations Cup. Consequently, the attack is then tasked with getting the team back on the right path, even if the defense isn’t always up to scruff.
And for all that, the team seems to be world’s away from where they were four years ago. Mental fortitude has never been Mexico’s strong suit. But here they are, in the semifinals of a Confederations Cup after going down in all three of their group matches.
No, you don’t want your team going down early in a match, especially against a hyper-defensive team, but the fact of the matter is that Mexico are showing more resilience than they ever have.
In the past, the team would almost break down after going a goal down. Now, they remain calm and composed. They don’t rush out trying to get a goal back, they take their time sticking to their original plan before the match. More importantly though, El Tri don’t seem to fear their opponent.
Against Portugal it might have been easy for the team to buckle down and play more defensively. They didn’t though. Instead they set out to control the game and control the game they did. Even if the final score doesn’t reflect that.
Mexico’s resilient nature now accurately reflects the Aztec Eagle Warriors of old.They fight back and aren’t afraid to dictate the tempo of the game. The defense will have to improve but the team’s new-found resilience will serve them well if they find themselves a goal down.