Mexico secured a semifinal berth in the FIFA Confederations Cup with a 2–1, come from behind victory over Russia on Saturday in the final match of group play. After Aleksandr Samedov put the host nation up 1–0 in the 25th minute, defender Néstor Araújo equalized with a looping header five minutes later. Hirving Lozano then netted the winner for Mexico five minutes after halftime.
Here are three thoughts on El Tri's victory
A blessing in disguise?
During the group stages, Juan Carlos Osorio tinkered with his squad, hoping to see what could work against teams with wildly different strategies. El Tri’s match against New Zealand, for example, featured a completely different set up to what we were expecting. At first, this seemed as a mistake because it failed to address Mexico’s need for consistency, especially in an international setting. But due to injuries (Diego Reyes) and a key suspension (Andres Guardado) in the group stage, Osorio is going to need other players to step up. He can sleep better at night knowing that squad members such as Luis Reyes, Jurgen Damm, Marco Fabian and Oribe Peralta have already been featured in the Confederations Cup so far.
Forget the forwards
Jonathan Dos Santos is the real star of this team; El Tri’s success rests on the midfielder's shoulders, and this will not change in the semi finals. If Mexico faces Chile, the number one priority will be to disciplined defensively and contain the movement and influence of Arturo Vidal. Dos Santos is the man to do it thank to his versatility, but more importantly his engine will be key as Chile’s strategy pushes the opposition. Mexico’s need to defend in transition is paramount; if there is one team that can punish you on the counter it’s La Roja. Jonathan Dos Santos will be responsible for this crucial assignment, so his performance could dictate how Mexico will fare.
If Osorio and Co. face Germany, Mexico will need to be extremely disciplined at the back and minimize the turnover ratio. No other Mexican player is more comfortable on the ball more so than Jonathan Dos Santos. His quiet, composed leadership will be key.
The comeback kings?
For the third consecutive match in the tournament, Mexico came back from behind to get a result. Against Russia, El Tri once again demonstrated the resilience that Osorio screams for in every match. His “Zero Excuses” t-shirt pretty much said it all.
It remains to be seen if this team should feel comfortable about sticking to this method – coming from behind will become a much harder task against better opposition. Osorio should show his team last 30 minutes of the Russia match and stress the importance of starting the semi in the exact same manner. The only way to defeat a team like Chile is to give them a dose of their own medicine, by fighting fire with fire.
Regardless of the opposition, however, Mexico can’t rest on the comfort of knowing that it can always come back and score. A strong start can make all the difference and perhaps dictate the way the rest of the tournament can be played.