After Marcelo rocketed the goal that proved to be the winner -- and the Brazilian squad traveled back in time to Carnaval days, exuberantly shouting and dancing on one of Estadio Corona’s corners -- Jose Manuel de La Torre sat on his coaching seat infuriated and perplexed.
His first game on Mexican territory will be remembered as his first loss during what had so far been a successful tenure. It was not long ago that Chepo’s team was praised because of its winning and relentless attitude. It was not long ago that Guardado proved to play an important role in the Tri’s success. It was not long ago that Chicharito scored every ball inside the box that he managed to touch with his stomach, head, right or left foot.
The reality is that these details, which had proven to be consistent in Chepo’s era, were not seen against la verde amarela. A team almost has to play a perfect game to pull out a win against the five-time World Champions, and that was certainly not the case for Mexico.
Surprisingly and unexpectedly after the expulsion of Dani Alves and Guardado’s poorly taken penalty kick, Mexico fell into a state of conformism. Perhaps the half time break played against Chepo’s team, for there was no time to immediately exploit that extra man. During the second half, Mano Menezes brought in Alves’s teammate Adriano to cover his spot on the defense, and for much of the remainder of the game Brazil’s ten men bailó Mexico’s eleven. Mexico’s counterattacks were not fructiferous: the movements were bad, the passes were shaky, and the attitude was poor.
Maybe it is early to conclude this detail, but the results were clear as water: a poor Andres Guardado equals a poor Mexico attack. With his penalty-kick failure, Guardado missed a golden opportunity to put Mexico on top 2-0 before the end of the first half. Guardado’s first half proved to be one of his weakest performances with Chepo’s Tri. His desire and sprints were present, but not his vision and tenacity. His shots on goal were maybe one, or even zero. His centers to the lonesome Little Pea were not on target, and his inspiration was seemingly destroyed after his crucial miss.
Without a doubt, Mexico’s best attacking threat was Pablo Barrera, who took on one of the best players of the match, Marcelo. His audacity on the right flank permitted Mexico to take the early lead. Giovani and Chicharito were like floating dandelions in their respective offensive positions. Both were unable to pose a true threat to Thiago Silva and David Luiz.
The first loss creates a lot of questions: Who should be Gerardo Torrado’s immediate substitute? Why put Carlos Salcido in the midfield, when you know he gives you more on the left flank? (Yes, he plays at defensive midfielder with Ferretti’s Tigres, but that should not be the excuse; the best version of Salcido is on the left flank). Does Sergio "Cherokee" Perez deserve another shot with El Tri? Should Mexico continue relying on players like Rafael Marquez and Oswaldo Sanchez?
The many lingering questions still on the table may prove to be the enduring lesson of the Brazil match. These and other uncertainties must be addressed before Mexico can take a full step forward into the future.