After a very promising and successful first few games in charge of Mexico, Juan Carlos Osorio faced his toughest challenge to date in the Copa America. After a very promising start that included winning Group C, the tournament came to a screeching halt in the quarterfinals. Many of the fans blamed Osorio following his team's disastrous 7-0 defeat at the hands of a red-hot Chilean team, and the vast majority even called for him to be fired.
The madman showed both his genius and his idiocy
A self-proclaimed disciple of "El Loco" Marcelo Biesla, Juan Carlos Osorio tinkered with his team and came up with an experimental game-plan for the group opener against Uruguay. The formation that Osorio rolled out for this game can best be described as a 3-1-2-3-1. It appeared that there were three center backs, a diamond shaped midfield, two outside wingers, and a lone wolf up top as striker.
This formation was incredibly unusual because it lacked both wing-backs and full-backs. However, the formation worked beautifully against a narrow Uruguayan side that cause the most danger from cutting in wide men and full-backs coming forward. The formation allowed Mexico's wide center backs to be perfectly positioned to stop the threat of Uruguay's wide men. The backline was helped by Diego Reyes' ability to lock down the remaining Uruguayan playmakers from his role as defensive midfielder.
Osorio rolled out the same formation, but had several changes to the starting XI. For the second game of the group against Jamaica, this ideas was very far from genius. The Jamaican side took advantage of Mexico's narrow defensive shape by spreading the game out wide and attacking down the flanks with a ridiculous amount of pace. If Jamaica's striker, Clayton Donaldson, had been a bit sharper with his finishing the game could have ended with three to four goals in favor of the Reggae Boyz.
The formation and and lineup changes in the game against Jamaica created the perfect storm for a disaster. Several of the Mexican players were put in unfamiliar territory by the unusual formation that was used in the game. Their indecisiveness and overall lack of cohesion very nearly allowed Jamaica to sneak out of the Rose Bowl with the victory.
Venezuela throughly manhandled Mexico with their up tempo energy and fast and furious pace during the third and final group game. Yet another series of lineup changes caused Mexico to play without cohesion, focus, and confidence. As a result, El Tri trailed for much of the game following an absolutely stunning golazo by Venezuela. However, when it matter most Jesus "Tecatito" Corona stepped up and scored a magnificently brilliant golazo of his own to earn a point and victory of Group C for Mexico.
An ambitious strategy
Osorio and his team came into their quarterfinal matchup with Chile as the slight favorite to win the game. In a very ambitious move by Osorio, Mexico rolled out an attacking minded 4-3-3 lineup in order to go toe-to-toe with a very good Chilean side. This ambitious strategy didn't work. Mexico were absolutely humiliated by a far superior Chilean side. They struggled to maintain possession as Chile aggressively pressured them high up the filed. The pressure payed off for Chile who were able to score a whopping seven goals over the course of the 90 minute match.
Once again, the Mexican players looked unsure of themselves because of the lineup and formation changes implemented by Juan Carlos Osorio. After the team went down 3-0, it almost looked as though they stopped trying to compete. Balls that should have been cleared by the defense were knocked into the back of the net by a red-hot Chilean side. One couldn't help but feel sorry for Guillermo Ochoa as his defenders left him to helplessly stop point blank shots from Chile's strikers.
Perhaps Mexico would have been better off sitting back, absorbing Chile's pressure, and trying to spring quick and effective counter attacks. However, the lineup that Juan Carlos Osorio sent out onto the field wasn't built to play with that kind of style. They were built to go attack for attack with Chile; and were simply outperformed by a better Chilean side.
The blame for this embarrassing defeat cannot be entirely placed on the shoulder of Juan Carlos Osorio. He sent out an ambitious lineup with the best players on the team. He enabled them to play in a system was more familiar than the 3-1-2-3-1. To put it simply, the players didn't go out an preform to the level that they are capable of. Some might argue that Mexico simply are not good enough to go toe-to-toe with an elite team like Chile. However, we'll never know if Mexico is good enough to challenge an elite team like Chile if the managers aren't as ambitious as Osorio during the big games.
Osorio should be commended for being as ambitious as he was against Chile; not ridiculed for the humiliating result. He put his best foot forward and the players let him down. You cannot ask for much more than a manager to put his best foot forward and to take risks when they're needed the most.