WOW! Someone referred to what we saw Saturday night in Santa Clara, California as La Roja Wedding, a reference to Chile's nickname and a scene that took place in Game of Thrones. A fitting name for a 7-0 thrashing of a Mexican side that was essentially at home. From the onset of the match, it was clear what Juan Antonio Pizzi's strategy was: he would pressure Mexico high and cause the backline to make mistakes. Pizzi's game plan was executed to perfection. His players came out playing at a different speed and didn't allow the Mexicans any space.
On the other hand, Juan Carlos Osorio, who had largely been regarded for being strategic and having detailed game planning, was completely outcoached. He had no response for what Chile was doing strategically, and there was no one on the bench that could provide a spark. After the game, Osorio apologized for the result—as he should since this is largely his fault. Seven goals at home is not only an embarrassment but unacceptable for a team who was essentially considered a favorite to win the Cup. Chile will now go on to face Colombia in the semifinal, and Mexico, Mexico goes back to the drawing board with a lot of questions marks.
Here are my 3 takeaways from the match:
1) The Results Are Just Scratching the Surface
Osorio had no answer for Chile, but this result cannot be considered an anomaly. This is an amalgamation of everything we have been seeing from Mexico since late May. The team was on a 22-game, unbeaten streak with ten of those games under Osorio, but regardless of the results, the team never played well. Osorio hasn't defined a starting lineup, let alone a style of how he wants his team to play. We live in a results based world, and the results for Mexico were masking the deficiencies the team had.Never in this Copa did the team look dominant or superior to their opposition. In fact, they actually looked like the inferior side for large parts of those matches which, up until last night, were against lesser competition.
The writing on the wall for what happened Saturday night was first seen against Jamaica. They essentially let the world know what the game plan to beat Mexico was. Chile executed the same game plan as Jamaica. The difference was Chile has elite players like Sanchez and Vidal who took advantage of the opportunities they had. Things aren't always how they appear. Although Mexico was winning, they had not been playing well, and what happened Saturday was just the culmination of everything that has transpired. I don't know if Osorio stays or leaves. What I do know, is that Mexican fans deserve better than what we have been given.
2) Roster Depth & Chemistry
A lot has been made about the starting lineup rotation, but what magnifies the deficiencies in this strategy are Mexico's lack of roster depth. Contrary to what Osorio believes, Mexico does not have the depth to switch players in and out like chess pieces. Mexico is a team that is 11, maybe 12 players deep, and those players are not interchangeable—at least not with any players that he took to Copa America. So when Mexico went down 2-0, the question was "who do you bring in?", and there was nobody on that roster who could make a difference.
Besides the lack of roster depth, the rotations, with players who should not be starting for the national team, not only hindered the level of play but were a detriment to the team's chemistry. The first goal from Chile is a perfect example of why rotating players does a disservice to the team's chemistry. In the play, Alexis Sanchez starts off on the left side and runs across the pitch to the right side of the field, and Aguilar follows him. When Aguilar left his zone, the rest of the defensive line should have shifted down to make up for his absence, but they didn't. When Ochoa blocks Marcelo Diaz' shot, the ball lands on the left side of the box where Edson Puch is wide open alone. This is essentially where Aguilar or his teammate should have been, but nobody was there. That is evidence that the chemistry just isn't there between these players. If Osorio continues at the helm, the rotations must stop, and he needs to build on his best 11's chemistry.
While I would love to sit here and place 100% of the blame of what happened Saturday night on Osorio, it is not all his fault. The players of this team, the 5 pillars, have to shoulder some of this blame. This team came out flat from the beginning. It's as if they thought they had this victory wrapped up before the game started. These players showed no tenacity nor fight, and they were certainly not Guerrero's Azteca.
Guardado was the acting captain, but there was no leadership on the field—nobody directing what players should do or where they should be. Midway through the game, I saw Rafa Marquez' name being talked about as a sub, but a 37yr old CB was not the solution—at least not when you're losing. Marquez should have started at CB because, say what you want about Rafa in big games, he is a natural leader who fights to the end.
If there is one player who certainly should not take as much blame as he will, it is Guillermo Ochoa. In so many of the goals, players just gave up on the plays, and Ochoa was left out on an island to just take the barrage. Unfortunately, this isn't Spain, and you can't just completely overhaul the team with a brand new crop of players. The majority of the players that were on the field are the base of this team, and they will need to get over this terrible performance because World Cup Qualifying is right around the corner.