In what was a rather limited showing for the South Korea NT on Saturday, Mexico took full advantage as predicted and were able to overcome the rusty Asian side who had gone nearly a full year without playing a match. And had it not been for two missed opportunities by “Chucky” Lozano within the first 25 minutes of the match, the score could’ve been much more lopsided. And Despite the Asians taking a 1-0 lead into the final quarter of the match, they bent and broke when it mattered most, allowing three goals from the Mexicans in as many minutes to sentence the game in favor of El Tri.
With Mexico confirming their good form vs. South Korea, we now turn to today’s match, which features another Asian giant, in Japan. Unlike the Koreans, Japan resumed their international friendlies last month, facing two very complicated African National Teams; their scoreless draw with Cameroon kicked off their 2020 activity, followed by their Ivory Coast encounter, which they claimed by the bare minimum of 1-0 thanks to a stoppage time header by Naomichi Ueda in the 90th + 1’ minute. And just last Friday, Japan overcame Mexico CONCACAF rival Panama by a final of 1-0 as well. In other words, Japan, just like Mexico, have yet to taste defeat in 2020.
So, who exactly should Mexico be looking out for in this one? We’ll start with their captain, 32-year old Sampdoria centre-back Maya Yoshida. In the midfield, we’ll focus on Daichi Kamada, who has one goal and four assists in barely 7 league games thus far with Bundesliga’s Eintracht Frankfurt. And finally, up front, Liverpool striker Takumi Minamino who only hasn’t gotten more playing time because of players such as Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mané who are simply world-class stars. No shame in taking a backseat to those guys. But he is undoubtedly a key piece to this Japan NT offensive scheme, and Mexico should watch out for him.
For Mexico, Raúl Jiménez continued his amazing form and got on the scoreboard yet again, scoring the tying goal on Saturday, as well as completing a superb backheel pass to Orbelín Pineda who ended up assisting Uriel Antuna for the team’s second goal to take the lead. However, Mexico’s weak spot continues to be defense, as Hwang’s wide open goal to put the Koreans ahead came on an easy cross, and Kwon’s goal to narrow Mexico’s lead to 3-2 also came on a cross, this time on a corner-kick, where the defense lost its coverage once again. They must work urgently to solve this, as we mentioned this as a key takeaway from last month’s friendlies as well, and it clearly has yet to be corrected.
PREDICTION: While Japan are undoubtedly a tough team, probably even more so than South Korea, I don’t see them having enough quality on defense to cover Mexico’s dangerous attackers. While they appear a more dangerous team on offense than the Koreans, I believe their defense will allow at least a goal in this one, despite them not having allowed a goal in their three 2020 games thus far. However, I also believe Mexico’s defective defense will concede. A draw sounds good today, as these teams appear to be pretty evenly matched.