Araujo injury scare ruins game for Mexico
Nestor Araujo was stretchered off with a suspected knee injury as Mexico’s chances of winning the match banished after just 15 minutes. Araujo’s injury was the start of a nightmare evening for El Tri, who seemed to have lost all focus after his injury. The match took a very different feel, and there were even more injury worries for Mexico when Carlos Salcedo had to be replaced with a shoulder injury.
It was almost exactly four years ago when Mexico lost Luis Montes in very similar circumstances, a friendly at AT&T Stadium right before the 2014 World Cup, and any prolonged absence that suggests both Araujo and Salcedo miss the World Cup would be a huge blow for coach Juan Carlos Osorio. In the end, the 1-0 scoreline in favor of Croatia was a fair one, but the result took a backseat to what transpired on the injury front.
Fringe players failed to step up
For a number of players, these last two friendlies were effectively an audition to Juan Carlos Osorio ahead of the 2018 World Cup. Apart from Marco Fabian with his free kick golazo against Iceland, every other player failed to acquit themselves well across both of the games.
In the case of Jorge “Burrito” Hernandez, Omar Govea, and Rodolfo Pizarro, they were unlucky the first half of the Croatia game was marred by a serious injury to a teammate. Had Nestor Araujo’s injury never happened, perhaps we would be saying a different story. The truth is neither stepped up when it counted, and they all succumbed to the same lack of confidence of the rest of the team.
Next up, Juan Carlos Osorio’s list of 23 players that will be traveling to Russia 2018 will be released no later than May 14, and it is unlikely we will see Burrito, Govea and Pizarro on it.
Guillermo Ochoa makes case to be the starter at Russia
There were a number of second string players with a point to prove here, but the only player that made any impressing is actually a regular under Juan Carlos Osorio, goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa. It remains to be seen if Osorio will rotate goalkeepers at Russia 2018, but if there has to be a clearcut number one choice, it has to be Guillermo Ochoa. Following Aruajo’s injury, the back four was caught out of position on numerous occasions, but despite all that, it was Ochoa who kept his composure throughout. Ochoa already proved doubters wrong in 2014, and he could be poised for another big role as the last line of defense in what is promising to look like a leaky Mexican defense.