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Predicting Mexico’s starting XI at the World Cup

Denmark v Mexico - International Friendly Photo by Pier Marco Tacca/Getty Images

Let’s get something out of the way first. Predicting what is going through Juan Carlos Osorio’s head is nearly impossible. That said, we can get a pretty good idea of what Mexico’s rivals bring to the table, and in turn, this can at least give us some clues as to what direction Osorio may take. Here are three possible Mexico lineups we can see at the World Cup. (Note: Obviously, these don’t take into consideration possible injuries and/or suspensions as you’d have to somehow know the future to guess those right.)

Mexico vs. Germany

Contrary to popular belief, this might be the easiest game for Juan Carlos Osorio to prepare. It’s not just the fact that Mexico already faced Germany at the Confederations Cup, but Mexico could be forgiven for losing this game. Germany are after all the current World Cup champs, and there is really no mystery as to how they are going to play.

Apart from Sweden, one of the common themes here is that all teams from Group like to permutate things at the back and change formations constantly. Germany is no different. The problem is this is Germany we are talking about, and there is every reason to believe Juan Carlos Osorio is going to play it safe here.

Germany could come out with a 4-2-3-1 formation or even trick Mexico into thinking they are going to come out with four at the back. Adaptibility is going to be key, which is why having more than two natural center backs on the field makes sense. Osorio has done this plenty of times in the past, and this provides El Tri with the opportunity to adapt to any opponent at will.

Why Raul Jimenez on the wing though? If that fateful evening at Levi’s Stadium taught us anything is that it is always good to have a Plan B. Like Chile, Germany is a team more than capable of beating Mexico at their own game, and Jimenez is a good escape plan when having to go direct. Height is of importance to Osorio, and having Jimenez on the field provides him with an extra tactical weapon.

Mexico vs. South Korea

Adaptability, adaptability, adaptability. As oppose to Germany, however, Mexico can give themselves a bit more technical leverage. This is a game Mexico is expected to take control of and show their superiority. Like with Germany, South Korea’s ability to morph between a line of three and four will likely mean Osorio opts once again for more than two natural center backs.

Meanwhile, having Jonathan dos Santos in there means that Mexico could potentially move into a 3-4-3-like formation, with the younger dos Santos moving to the right. Jonathan is no stranger to playing in a more wide position(see Villarreal), and rumor has it, Osorio even tried him out as right back in training.

As for having Tecatito and Chucky in there at the same time. It is only logical to have your two best wide players against the team you are suppose to beat.

Mexico vs. Sweden

This isn’t just potentially the hardest game Mexico will face in the Group Stage but also the hardest to predict. Sweden typifies everything Mexico hate about a team. El Tri can come into this match in one of two ways: they either come out all guns blazing or play it conservatively after getting two very good results in their first two games.

It would be foolish to think Juan Carlos Osorio won’t rotate goalkeepers at some point in this tournament. Osorio likes Alfredo Talavera for what he brings aerially, and this match seems like the perfect game to unleash “Tala”.

If you analyze Sweden closely, there isn’t anything completely out of this world about them. They know what they are playing at and they will stick to the script for the whole 90 minutes. Where there is something different is in RB Leipzig’s Emil Forsberg. His ability to cut inside from the left usually forces the opponent’s defensive midfielder to get out of his zone, and because Sweden typically play with two strikers, this can really open up avenues to attack.

Again, going with more than two center backs is ideal, and Mexico would would need at least one player that can act both as a defensive midfielder and an extra center back. The idea is that if Forsberg does manage to wreck havoc when he appears through the middle, that there are potentially four players behind the ”defensive midfielder” able to stop him and the two strikers.

Forsberg’s presence also means Juan Carlos Osorio can unleash Carlos Vela. Let’s face it, while Carlos Vela is arguably one of the most technically gifted players in the history of Mexican fútbol and he is a lot faster than people give him credit for, his tracking back isn’t always the best. Forsberg’s unnatural movement gives Vela those extra few seconds to track back and even the chance to attack Sweden in space, doing exactly the same thing Forsberg does.

Lastly, having Chicharito as a false-winger is something Juan Carlos Osorio has done in the past. This give’s Mexico the ability to match Sweden’s two-striker formation, and in hindsight, this would only benefit a cross-happy Miguel Layun even more.

What do you think Mexico’s lineup will be?