In what looks to be the most attractive and even matchup of the quarterfinals, Mexico goes up against defending Copa America Champion Chile in Santa Clara, California on Saturday night.
El Tri, who comes into the match with a 22-game, unbeaten streak, won Group C but was far from dominant. Experimental lineups and shaky play led to a less than stellar performance from Juan Carlos Osorio's men. Had it not been for a moment of brilliance from Tecatito, Mexico might have been the Group C runner up.
La Roja, a familiar foe of el Tri, comes into the knockout stage in a similar state. Their play in the group stage was far removed from what we saw in the 2015 edition of the Copa America, and the team's fate was not decided until the final match of the group stage.
Although the results have come for El Tri, there are contrasting opinions about Juan Carlos Osorio's management during this Copa America. His tinkering of the starting eleven and the formations have affected the fluidity of the team's play. Osorio's unwillingness to field his best XI has been a detriment to Mexico's ability to demonstrate strong team play, and it has caused the team to struggle versus inferior competition. Mexico's roster is not as deep as Osorio would like to believe, and if El Tri is to be competitive against a very dangerous Chilean team, he will need to play his best starting XI.
Osorio's lineup and formation is difficult to predict, but there are some indications of what he might do versus Chile, as the teams just played a friendly less than a month ago. In that June 1 match up, Osorio used a 4-3-3, and this formation is more than likely what we will see Sunday. A 4-3-3, will help the backline with solid fullback play to combat Chile's strong attack on the wings. Aside from the formation, another similar tactic from that earlier meeting that Osorio will likely take, is having Alfredo Talavera in the net.
While Osorio has largely been inconsistent with the team he fields, his lineups always include his five pillars: Hector Moreno, Miguel Layun, Hector Herrera, Andres Guardado, and Chicharito. Against Venezuela, he left both Layun and Chicharito out in the first half, and the team struggled mightily conceding a goal early.
Along with his five pillars, Osorio will also field the aforementioned Tecatito, but who Osorio will field out of the remaining seven players is essentially unpredictable considering he has never used the same lineup.
This will be the 10th time La Roja faces off against El Tri in a Copa America, and to date, they have not experienced much success, having only garnished one victory, two draws, and three defeats. In their most recent Copa America match, Chile tied 3-3 versus what could be considered Mexico's B team, yet they still went on to lift the cup.
While the coach of that championship run is no longer with the team, the base of that team is still there. Players like Alexis Sanchez and Arturo Vidal are elite level talent that play in top European clubs. Their play-making ability can influence the outcome of a game in an instant. Along with having individual talent, they also play a very offensive-minded game dictated by quick-passing and rapid movement off the ball that can expose defenders.
Whereas the team is very dangerous offensively, the backline has proven to be a liability which has been magnified by the inconsistent play of goalkeeper Claudio Bravo. Chilean manager, Juan Antonio Pizzi, will need to field a strong backline in front of Bravo to mask some of his recent deficiencies. In the same right, Pizzi will look to use his wingers, Sanchez and Fuenzalida, to pressure high on Mexico's backline which have been irregular all tournament and like to play the ball from the back.
The styles of both teams along with their managerial tactics will make for a game that will be very open and will surely have a lot of back and forth. Although both teams have not played to their potential, they both possess very high ceilings and great individual talent that can change the outcome of any game, making this such a fascinating matchup. If Mexico is to advance past Chile, they will need to play consistent, error-free soccer for 90 plus minutes and have the best game of the Osorio era.
Mexico 1-0 Chile - June 1, 2016 - International Friendly
Mexico defeated Chile, 1-0, with a late goal from second half sub Chicharito.
Mexico (4-3-3) Talavera; Aguilar, Moreno, Marquez, Layun; Molina, Guardado, Herrera; Tecatito, Lozano, Chicharito.
Chile (4-2-3-1) Bravo; Fuenzalida, Medel, Jara, Mena; Diaz, Aranguiz; Vargas, Vidal, Beausejour; Sanchez