Mexico took the lead twice but couldn’t hold on as they end the year with a 2-2 tie against Chile. Mexico suffered in the first half, but improved in the second to get the tie that ends a three game losing streak after losing a friendly to Ecuador and two away World Cup Qualifiers against the United States and Canada. Coach Gerardo Martino ends a very disappointing 2021, and will need to improve fast as he will have to play World Cup Qualifiers in 2022 as early as January 27.
The first half started with various players making their Mexico debut, including Santos Laguna’s Carlos Acevedo at goalkeeper and field players like Julian Araujo, Salvador Reyes, Luis Olivas, and Jordan Silva. Chile meanwhile also had a number of youngsters and four players who play in Liga MX (Claudio Baeza, Nicolas Diaz, Pablo Parra, and Sebastian Vegas) in their starting lineup. Chile had the first chance when off of a free kick Benjamin Kuscevic rose to get a free header, forcing Acevedo to make an incredible save. Chile then had another opportunity when a cross just missed Joaquin Montecinos. Chile had started better, but on their first chance Mexico made it count. Alfonso Gonzalez got off a great left footed shot that forced a save from Chile’s goalkeeper Sebastian Perez. His rebound fell to Uriel Antuna, who got off a pass into the path of Santiago Gimenez, whose left footed shot went past Perez for the 1-0 lead. After a couple of minutes of Chile once again dominating, Mexico lost the ball and Chile got a cross into Ivan Morales, who got a shot off that hit the post. The rebound fell to him after Acevedo made another good save, but Morales got another strong shot that bounced off Acevedo’s feet and into the goal. Mexico continued to struggle as the defense, especially Silva, were having a terrible game. Mexico then started to gain more possession as Chile started to slow down on their pressure. Mexico lost a ball that lead to a potential three-on-two, but Mexico’s defense were able to clear the ball. Alan Cervantes lost the ball and allowed a good counter but Acevedo made a great dive to take the ball off Clemente Montes’ feet.
The second half started with Mexico subbing out Alan Cervantes for Erik Lira, while Chile subbed out Marcelino Nuñez for Victor Mendez. Chile had a good chance after another bad move by Silva, but Montes couldn’t control it. After a longball Gimenez was able to get past his defenders and get off a left footed shot, but Perez made a great save and off the rebound, Salvador Reyes’ shot went well wide. Mexico came close when a cross by Reyes got well deflected by Gimenez, but once again Perez made a great save. Chile gained more possession but Mexico was able to get back after their first opportunity in a while. Off of a free kick, Sebastian Cordova hit a great cross that Jordan Silva rose to get a great header after finding himself wide open, knocking it past Perez for the 2-1 lead. Mexico then subbed out Alfonso Gonzalez and Jordan Silva for Fernando Beltran and Israel Reyes. Chile meanwhile subbed out Clemente Montes and Nicolas Diaz for Bastian Yañez and Gabriel Suazo. Mexico had a great chance when after a mistake by Chile, Cordova got a one-on-one against Perez, but his shot was saved by the Chilean keeper, wasting a great chance. Mexico then subbed out Santiago Gimenez for Eduardo Aguirre, while Chile subbed out Ivan Morales and Claudio Baeza for Diego Valencia and Ignacio Saavedra. There was a small scuffle between Aguirre and Montecinos that earned yellow cards for both. Mexico had a good counter attack, in which a great cross from Antuna was headed wide by Beltran. Chile subbed out Joaquin Montecinos for Christian Zavala. Mexico tried to surprise Chile off of a corner when they found Beltran outside the area but the shot went wide. Mexico then made the move that everybody wanted when Sebatian Cordova and Uriel Antuna got subbed out for Mauro Lainez and the acclaimed Marcelo Flores. Then after a terrible mistake from Salvador Reyes, Chile got off a cross that Acevedo deflected into a Chilean player who then found Pablo Parra, and his left footed shot was deflected past Acevedo for the 2-2 equalizer. It was a bad mistake from Reyes and maybe even Acevedo, although they play all came out of the America defender’s fault. Mexico tried to get back but they ran out of time and the game ended with a tie that at least ended Mexico’s losing streak.
Mexico finishes a disappointing 2021 with a tie against a very young Chile. There were many positive aspects that Martino can get out of this match, although there were also some negatives. A couple of young players keep showing they have what it takes for a future moving up the scales. Santiago Gimenez keeps showing that he’s one of the top, if not the top prospect at forward. Erik Lira improved Mexico a lot in the second half, while Luis Olivas showed a lot of potential, which is great for a player that was a starter in Liga de Expansion a year ago. We also saw the much anticipated debut of Marcelo Flores, the best prospect at 18 years old for Mexican football at that age. Unfortunately a couple of players didn’t take advantage of their opportunity. For months people asked for call ups to Alfonso Gonzalez and Salvador Reyes, and yet they failed to live up to expectations when given the chance on Wednesday. Gonzalez showed some things, but Reyes struggled for most of the match and then made a terrible mistake that led to the second Chilean goal. The worst player of the match however was Alan Cervantes, who had a terrible half and his subbing out for Lira was the game changing decision. In the end the friendly, with so many debuts was mostly for new players to be seen and Coach Martino will now have to decided if any of them make the jump up for next months qualifiers, which should be key for Mexico to get back on track in the World Cup Qualifying and will be disastrous if the results don’t arrive.