(Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)
Luis Fernando Tena’s gestures and movements in the coach’s area were a perfect reflection of the El Tri Olympic team's state – ambiguous. It is a team that has not convinced observers over its last 270 minutes on the pitch, yet has previously evidenced the capabilities and talent of a side that could fight for an Olympic medal.
In Thursday's Olympic Games opener, South Korea displayed Mexico’s inefficiency to counterwork against intense pressure. The organized and patient Korean side excluded Mexico’s presence on the wings – Miguel Ponce and Javier Aquino’s important but minor interventions came only in the second half. With a debilitated force down the wings, Oribe Peralta’s performance finished with a deplorable grade.
Peralta’s sprints and challenges were off-timed on more than one occasion, but his angst and desire to win the ball was always there. The good through balls or centers hardly appeared, dwindling his presence on the field. As Korea heightened its presence on Mexico’s half of the field, Tena decided to make two substitutions that served as an oxygen tank to a team that was fainting of ideas.
Giovani dos Santos and Jorge "Chaton" Enríquez coming on for Peralta and Héctor Herrera, respectively, provided Mexico with an extra ambitious character it lacked in the first 65 minutes of the match. When Giovani hopped onto the pitch, Aquino and Ponce appeared more on the attacking end, and Fabián finally showed some signs that he was, in fact, present on the field. Chaton’s job was to make an impact on the midfield by becoming a type of aorta that provided fluidity to Mexico’s offense and defense.
The third substitution, Raúl Jiménez, came close to netting the winner. After a quick and precise pass from Giovani, the Club America striker easily earned a one-on-one and directed his attempt towards the goal’s corner. Just as Jiménez raised his hands to celebrate, the ball crashed off the left post, leaving the scoreboard with a bittersweet 0-0.
Group B finished the first date of Olympic football competition with all its members left with one point, making the upcoming matches richer in anxiety. Before the Sunday match in Coventry against Gabon, further questions arise for El Tri, such as: "Will Giovani dos Santos start instead of Oribe? If Jiménez and Giovani created Mexico’s best chance to score, should they start for Fabián and Peralta? If Chaton starts, does Tena leave the Mexican Ribery, Herrera, on the bench?" The answers will surely come over the next few days.