Mexico had a very disappointing start to their U-17 World Cup, only being able to get a draw against Iraq. Everybody’s fear became a reality as Mexico’s offense was awful for most of the game and Iraq took the lead. Diego Lainez lived up to his potential and took a hold of the game and Mexico was able to draw the game with a Roberto de la Rosa goal, but they never were able to dominate completely and Iraq was always dangerous because of constant defensive mistakes. To make matters worse, they will now face England, who crushed Chile 4-0 and definitely look as the best team in the group. Iraq will face a demoralized Chile, who will also be without their starting Goalkeeper after he got red carded.
Mexico came in expecting to challenge for the title with some of the best offensive players in the competition, especially America's Diego Lainez and Atlas’ Jairo Torres. The game started with Mexico having control of the ball and looking like the better team but was a little too passive and might have been hampered by a really lousy field of play. Yet off a quick counter attack and the first of what would be numerous mistakes by the Mexican defense, Mohameed Dawood was able to round the keeper and open the scoring. Dawood, who was Asia's leading goalscorer in the qualifiers, was a nightmare for Mexico all day long.
Not only was Mexico behind but the goal really got to the team, which became disorganized after it and failed to produce much. Lainez started to show glimpses of what would be a wonderful performance but Jairo Torres became incredibly nervous and failed to do much. A Lainez cross was headed by De la Rosa into the post in what was Mexico's best play in the first half. Iraq also had some chances and another awful mistake by Robles almost gave them the 2-0.
The second half started with another terrible Mexican mistake, this time by Alan Maeda, who started over Luis Olivas, that allowed Mohammed Rhida to go alone with the goalkeeper but his shoot was too weak and Mexican defenders were able to clear the ball.
A couple of minutes later, Mexico was able to to tie the game when off a throw in into the area, the ball was able to fall for Roberto de la Rosa, after a Iraq defender whiffed on the clearance, and he put it in into the corner for the 1-1.
After the goal Diego Lainez took control of the game. Lainez dribbled almost at will and made great runs and passes that the Iraq defense cleared or his teammates weren't able to capitalize. Unfortunately, neither Torres or De la Rosa matched his play and intensity ,and Mexico had some chances but few of them were clear.
On the other side, Iraq had a couple of chances because of Mexican mistakes. As the game went on it was clear that Mexico had the physical advantage and Iraqi players started cramping up and wasting time. Still, Mexico failed mentally to take advantage and as time went on. They became desperate and depended on long balls that made the game easier for Iraq and the 1-1 was the final result.
This debut was a sobering result for Mexico. Although it's true that you can't judge a tournament from a game, famously in 2011 Mexico opened with a 6-1 loss to Nigeria and then went to the final were they also lost to Nigeria, but the main worries is that the doubts that many had of this team turned into a reality. Mexico defense had a terrible game. The center back pairing of Maeda and Robles was by far the weakest point and suffered all game.
Offensively, this team is also going to suffer if Jairo Torres has another performance like today's. Torres, the star of the team during the World Cup qualifiers, was never able to get to the rhythm of the game and looked to be the most nervous of team. The bright spot for Mexico was Diego Lainez, who gave one of the best performances in a U-17 World Cup for Mexico. He totally dominated the field and showed to be a class above everybody. If he can get the attention of the world stage he deserves, he might be able to go to an European team right now.
Mexico will now have to face the toughest game of the group against England. Mexico will need to improve in every area to get a result with the only benefit being that they might be able to adjust to the weather conditions better than England. But the tide has turned for a lot of people after a disappointing start to a tournament were expectations were high for this team.