Mexico will face a must win situation when they play their second game of the U20 World Cup against Japan. Mexico lost their opener against Italy after a disappointing performance, currently sitting in last place in Group B. While Mexico is expected to do better against Japan, it will be a tough game against a team that on paper is not far from the level of Italy. Although their style is something Mexico has done better against before than the style that Italy played, they also pose a lot of problems for a team that has several weak points that were evident on their opener on Thursday.
Mexico’s lackluster level of play in the U20 Concacaf Championship and its terrible level in the run up to the World Cup (where they lost four out of five friendlies) didn’t lead to much hope for fans to have a great performance in the U20 World Cup. Their debut in the tournament against Italy seemed to confirm this fear. Mexico were dominated at times and although the 2-1 score wasn’t as bad as expected, they still showed a lot of the problems many thought the team had. With a very bad level from a defense that has almost no first division experience and with a static team that didn’t show much offensive ideas once Italy took the lead for the second time, the loss against Italy was well deserved. Like in the U20 Concacaf Championship, star Diego Lainez was isolated on the wings and didn’t have the impact expected. Juan Jose Macias showed a lot of promise but didn’t gel as much with his teammates, most likely because he only arrived to camp two days before - after he was playing in the Liga MX Liguilla. The loss means that Mexico needs to get points as soon as possible. While it’s true that the four best placed third place finishers also go through and that Japan and Ecuador tied (meaning that both are only one point above Mexico), they are still tough teams and Mexico dropping points means that they will end up close to finishing fourth in the group and out of the competition.
In the eyes of many Japan was expected to be the weakest team in the Group of Death. Still they shocked many in getting the tie against South American U20 champions Ecuador. It can be an advantage for Mexico to face a team like Japan who unlike Italy doesn’t tower over them physically. Still a problem not many people have picked up on is that unlike Italy, whose is accustomed to their defensive Catenaccio style, Japan should go on the offense and attack Mexico’s defense, which is unfortunately for Mexico their weakest area. While Italy’s defense showed how Mexico lacked offensive ideas to counter it, Japan testing Mexico’s defense might show how weak Mexico’s level is, something similar that already happened in the U20 Concacaf Championship. Still Macias showed to be on the level and Mexico might improve not losing the physical game and having more opportunities for their offensive players, who are the ones with more experience and a better level in the team. Mexico will hope that one of the players that looked their best on Thursday, Misael Dominguez, can make it to the game after leaving in half time because of injury. Mexico’s coaching staff said he would make it to the Japan game but it’s a game time decision.
With lot of eyes on Mexico’s participation on the U20 World Cup, Coach Diego Ramirez got a lot of criticism from people who hadn’t been paying attention to the team before and don’t realize that a lot of the issues are anything but new. Ramirez needs to pick things up, as a short tournament doesn’t give a lot of wiggle room to react. It’s only three days into the World Cup and Mexico is already in a “do or die” situation. Hopefully the individual talent is able to rise and Ramirez makes the adjustment to not have such a predictable team on the pitch.
Date: Sunday, May 26
Time: 6:30am Pacific, 8:30am Central, 9:30am Eastern
Venue: Stadion Miejski, Gdynia, Poland
TV: Telemundo (US-Español), Fox Sports 2 (US-English), Canal 5 Televisa (Mexico), UnivisionTDN (Mexico), TDN (Mexico), Azteca 7 (Mexico)