Confederations Cup: Resilient Mexico earns late equalizer against Portugal
Mexico’s 2-2 Confederations Cup draw with Portugal was an entertaining affair, and in many ways, it was a smart, resilient performance against the European champions. It was a great example on how El Tri not only performs against quality opposition but also how the team’s mental attitude has vastly improved since last year’s Copa America Centenario. Mexico had to come back twice against Cristiano Ronaldo and Co.–including a 91st-minute header from Hector Moreno–and a result like this will surely strengthen Juan Carlos Osorio’s belief that his team has learned many lessons since last year.
After the match, the Colombian was pleased with the performance, stating that perhaps they even deserved to win. “I feel like we deserved more,” he said after the match. “We almost had 60% possession against the European champions.”
While control was clearly something to talk about, it’s not to say that there isn’t a lot to ponder, and if Mexico wishes to go far in this tournament, and even more importantly for next summer, there are still certain places in which they have to improve.
Here are three takeaways from Sunday's draw.
More creativity needed
Mexico’s biggest offensive strength is controlling the final-third, as they intoxicate the opposition with their three forwards and a loaded midfield. But the issue is not entering the opposite half, but what to do afterwards. Osorio needs to figure out how to improve on creativity, as El Tri’s last man is often isolated in the box.
In addition, his 4-3-3 system works against weak defensive units, but it might not fit when its against stronger teams such as Joachim Low’s Germany. The need to tactically adapt must be a priority.
The Vela renaissance
No matter who adds the support from the wide areas, Javier Hernandez needs to be the target man, but make no mistake: this is the summer of Carlos Vela. The 28-year-old winger has blossomed under Osorio and firmly established his starting role with El Tri. It seemed so strange to take him off so early in the second half, so perhaps his own coach is still not fully convinced especially with all the firepower he has at his disposal. But once Vela came off, Mexico ran out of ideas and could not capitalize.
But personally, it’s amazing how he didn’t succeed at Arsenal, so maybe this is a sign that Carlitos Vela, with 56 caps and 17 goals for his country, can make another statement on the world stage. And that is nothing but good news and great timing for El Tri.
Defending after losing possession
We all know Pep Guardiola is obsessed with possession but what if I told you that another fixation of his is how a team defends immediately after losing the ball, especially in the opposite half. This to me is what Osorio needs to work on.
When Mexico goes for the jugular, they always look to attack with heavy artillery but the problem is that once they lose possession, they become vulnerable to the counter. It’s one of the reasons why they suffered the 7-0 nightmare against Chile last year.
One solution could perhaps be to play with three at the back and add wingbacks in order to guarantee a more compact midfield–a Chelsea-esque approach.
If they can improve on counter-defending, they will be a much more rounded squad.