It certainly wasn’t easy, but The Mexico National Team edged Haiti in extra time to seal their place in the 2019 Gold Cup Final. Here is what we learned from Mexico’s 1-0 Semifinal win over Haiti.
Haiti deserve a ton of credit
It’s only fair we start this article by giving Haiti the credit they deserve. They played a heck of a game, and it almost seems too cruel their Gold Cup came down to a rather generous penalty call from the Qatari match official. In fact, Haiti were nearly perfect on the defensive side of things, and if it weren’t for some clumsy execution on promising breakaways, Les Grenadiers could have even taken the lead on several late occasions.
In fútbol, you have to understand what you’re dealing with, and Haiti understood that from the very first moment they stepped on the pitch (in this tournament and in this game). For all their limitations, they were colossal in this Gold Cup, and while a reminder of how cruel this sport can be, this should also be a celebration of what it looks like when a team gives their communal best through the course of a whole tournament
Mexico can often look predictable
It is tough to say there are things wrong with this Mexico National Team when the reality is that El Tri has been the superior team in each one of their matches in this Gold Cup. That said, Haiti’s wonk performance on Tuesday revealed a lot of possible problems for Mexico ahead of a potential Gold Cup final against Jamaica or the United States.
Part of the reason why Gerardo “Tata” Martino has been such a likable character in his early days with the national team is that he is not perceived to be a bookish character like his predecessor Juan Carlos Osorio. In a culture where Mexicans like to judge their national team by the way the team performs, there is not much to complain about when you are winning your games and winning them by scoring at least three goals per match.
However, you have to go back to the games against Canada and Martinique to start noticing that El Tri is starting to become a little too predictable under Gerardo Martino. Haiti were unyielding for most of this match, cutting passing lanes left and right, and in return, even when Mexico managed to find the smallest of spaces in the final third, the Haitian defense always looked one step ahead of the Mexican attackers.
In defense of Gerardo Martino, this was the kind of the game in which Miguel Layun, Hector Herrera, and Hirving Lozano would have made a huge difference. He is working with what he’s got, and to his credit, he has Mexico in the Gold Cup Final.
El Tri’s fitness may play a role
This was Mexico’s second consecutive game going to extra time, so this is where fitness will play an important role going forward. Perhaps part of Mexico’s predictability versus Haiti was that they looked tired in between lines, with both of Mexico’s interior midfielders exercising very little movement to create passing lanes for their attacking teammates. In theory, Mexico should be extra rested for the the final, especially considering they will have an extra day of rest over their rival, but it’s something to definitely keep an eye on. At the end, Martino can’t be expected to make wholesale changes, but he could opt for fresher faces on defense, with somebody like Nestor Araujo returning to the starting XI.