Mexico started their final campaign before playing in the Olympic Games with a 3-0 victory over Panama. Mexico dominated the match from the start with their mostly U24 Team as well as the three overage players against a Panama team that was playing with the squad they are set to use in the Gold Cup. Mexico had a promising start against a tough opposition for an Olympic squad, although not as much for a senior team. Mexico will return to Mexico City along with Olympic coach Jaime Lozano, while Gerardo Martino, his staff, and Hector Moreno go to Los Angeles where they will face Nigeria on Saturday along with the rest of the senior national team that is training in the California city.
The first half started with Mexico coming out to probably as close a starting lineup to the one they are set to use in the Olympic tournament. With the three overage players (Guillermo Ochoa, Luis Romo, and Henry Martin) starting as well as key players like Diego Lainez, Cesar Montes, and Carlos Rodriguez. Mexico had their first opportunity when Lainez got off a left footed shot from outside the area, but it went wide as Panama’s goalkeeper Jose Calderon just stared at it. Later a cross by Alexis Vega forced Calderon to make a diving clearance that almost went straight to a Mexican attacker. Off of a corner kick, Cesar Montes rose to get a header and it hit the post after Calderon’s lackadaisical effort to get to it. Then after a terrible mistake by Panama, Luis Romo was able to make a cross to a wide open Diego Lainez who went into a one-on-one against Calderon, moving his body perfectly to get a great low shot past Calderon for the 1-0 lead.
Mexico continued to have possession but they weren’t creating much. Panama had their first attack with a free kick by Eric Davis that just went wide. Mexico responded with a shot by Vega from outside the area that just went wide. Mexico had a good four-on-three play that was wasted when Sebastian Cordova sent his low cross right to a Panamanian player. Later off a counter attack from a corner kick, Mexico wasted another opportunity when a Lainez cross was brought down by Montes but the Panamanian defense was able to clear it. Off of another corner kick, Montes rose to get a close range header but unfortunately for him it went straight to Calderon, who had some trouble but was able to make the save. The first half ended and Mexico had dominated but needed to create more chances for all their possession.
The second half started with Panama making three substitutions hoping to make things better for them including veterans like Alberto Quintero. Mexico meanwhile made on substitution by subbing in Joaquin Esquivel for Sebastian Cordova. After a couple of early even minutes, Panama almost had a great opportunity after Johan Vasquez lost a ball in the midfield, but a great slide by Cesar Montes stopped a possible one-on-one. Then off of a corner kick, Cesar Montes got a wide open header that went past everybody and into Diego Lainez path although there was a debate. Yet the ball went in for the 2-0 lead and it looked like Montes would get credit for the goal. Panama responded by subbing in Pumas striker Gabriel Torres. Panama then made two hard fouls on Lainez, one of which would be judged to be a yellow card to Eric Davis. Mexico subbed out Carlos Rodriguez and Cesar Montes for Roberto Alvarado and Jesus Alberto Angulo. Mexico continued to dominate, but Panama was able to get more possession than before. Mexico subbed out Diego Lainez and Alexis Vega for Uriel Antuna and Jesus Ricardo Angulo. Mexico looked to have scored a great goal off a counter but it was ruled to be offside on Jesus Ricardo Angulo. Replays showed that it looked like it was a bad call. Mexico then made a final move by subbing out Luis Romo for Fernando Beltran. In the last minutes after a great combination play, Henry Martin got a great pass and went alone into the area and got a right footed shot right by Calderon to make it 3-0. Mexico finished off the match after a great display.
Mexico had a great performance from the U24 team, although they will need to improve in certain aspects and take that the opposition wasn’t the best. The overage players need to integrate themselves better (although Guillermo Ochoa didn’t get a single shot for him to need to make a save), and they will have trouble if they fail to improve in cohesion as well as playing a little too conservative at times. The biggest problem is one of time and the fact that they at most will get just one more friendly before having to face a very tough group, with opposition much better than a struggling Panama. Rumors are they will play a friendly in Japan against New Zealand, but there has been no word yet from the federation. Mexico will need to improve fast because although it’s a great start, it might not be as much when you see that they are 22 days away from their debut against one of the favorites of the tournament, France.