Mexico made history with their best ever Olympic debut, getting a 4-1 win over France. It took 53 years, but Mexico paid France back for a 4-1 win by the Europeans in the 1968 Olympic games in Estadio Azteca. Mexico took advantage of an unprepared French team, who took a big hit when Ligue 1 clubs didn’t release their players for the tournament, forcing the team to go with a weakened squad. Mexico head coach Jaime Lozano now is in prime position, getting a great result against what was expected to be the toughest team in the group. They will however have to get their heads settled as they face another tough game against the hosts Japan.
Mexico started the match with the team coming out with red shorts, something unusual that reminded many of their opening match against Saudi Arabia in the 1999 Confederations Cup, something that many people would have on their mind later. Mexico had an opportunity a minute in when a free kick had Sebastian Cordova getting a cross into the area, but Cesar Montes’ header went wide. Mexico had a scare when a cross was sent into the area but Andre-Pierre Gignac was called offside. France had a chance after Mexico lost a ball but Teji Savanier’s shot went well wide. After a harsh tackle to Erick Aguirre, Clement Michelin got a yellow card. Mexico had the best opportunity in the game when France lost the ball to Diego Lainez and he made a pass to Alexis Vega, and his shot went past French goalkeeper Paul Bernardoni but was saved by a defender. Lainez then later made a great play by going past two French defenders, but his pass was cleared before it reached Henry Martin. Off the ensuing corner kick, Luis Romo got a header but it went wide. After a dumb foul to Michelin, Vega would get a yellow card. France then sent a cross into the area and Gignac got a head on it, but it was easily saved by Mexico’s goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa. Later Arnaud Nordin got a shot off that forced Ochoa to make a save. While Mexico had been better overall, France had the most dangerous opportunities after Vega’s shot. Mexico then got a good opportunity after a good combination play by Martin and Vega that was finished by a shot from Cordova, but his left-footed shot went wide. Luis Romo then got a good cross that got past Bernarndoni, but no player got to the end off it for what would have been a tap in opportunity. Mexico looked to have an opportunity just prior to halftime, but Lainez couldn’t get his shot off and he fell after clashing with a defender but no call was given. Mexico had been the slightly better team but the score was scoreless at halftime.
The second half started with no changes for Mexico. A minute in, Cordova hit a volley in the area that hit the post, but he was called offside. Although it was correctly ruled, it showed that Mexico was looking for the result from the start of the half. Then after a brilliant play from Diego Lainez, who made mincemeat out of Antony Caci, got into the area and got off a great cross that found Alexis Vega. Vega headed the ball past Bernardoni for the 1-0 lead. Mexico had the lead and continued to pressure with Martin making a good play in the area. Martin found Vega, whose shot was blocked by Bernardoni. Mexico had another good chance when a pass in the area found a battling Henry Martin, but his shot was also saved by Bernarndoni. Then after France made a harsh foul that wasn’t called, Mexico took advantage of the distraction it brought and Carlos Rodriguez lobbed pass to a wide open Sebastian Cordova, whose left-footed shot went past Bernardoni for the 2-0 lead. Mexico had a deserved lead, especially after a great start to their second half. France tried to react, but they started to lose balls as Mexico’s pressure caused them a lot of trouble. France made their first moves by subbing out Lucas Tousart for Alexis Beka Beka and Arnauld Nordin for Randal Kolo Muani. France then got a shot from Caci, but it went wide. Mexico then answered with a shot from outside the area from Carlos Rodriguez, but his shot went wide. Then France had a good counter and Cesar Montes got late to a tackle and dropped Kolo Muani in the area, which made the ref gave a penalty kick to France. Andre-Pierre Gignac stepped up to take the penalty and got a right footed shot past Ochoa to make it 2-1. Ochoa got close to getting the ball but it went just below him. France got back into the game with a goal that wasn’t very deserved.
Mexico needed to bounce back quickly after dominating the match and getting the hit of a goal. They then made their first moves by subbing out Diego Lainez and Sebastian Cordova for Uriel Antuna and Jose Esquivel. It looked like Lozano was trying to save the result with the less offensive moves, especially subbing in Esquivel for Cordova. Off of a counter attack, Vega made a good run and found Antuna, whose shot from outside the area went just inches from the post. France then subbed out Florian Thauvin for Nathanael Mbuku. Then after a great run past Ceci from Uriel Antuna, he got off a left footed shot that went past Bernardoni, hit the left post and went in to make it 3-1. Mexico now had a lead deserving of their performance. Mexico then subbed out Alexis Vega for Roberto Alvarado. France started to make a last push, but they were starting to unravel and their attacks were very disorganized. Mexico then made one more substitution by taking out Henry Martin for Eduardo Aguirre. Kolo Muani got a free header, but he sent it easily to Ochoa. France subbed out Anthony Caci for Melvin Bard. Bard made an impact immediately but for Mexico, when he cleared a ball into Mexico’s area and right into the path of Eduardo Aguirre, who hit a hard right footed shot past Bernardoni for the 4-1 lead.
Mexico was the better team and gave one of their best ever performances in an Olympic Games. While Mexico won the Gold medal in 2012, they only scored four times in that tournament in the quarterfinal game against Senegal, but that match went into extra time after being tied 2-2. While fans should be over the moon, as Mexico sits in first place and beat one of the tournament favorites, they will now face another tough match against hosts Japan. Japan also won their opening match against South Africa, although by a lower 1-0 scoreline. Mexico will face a tough team which has a lot of speed and unlike France, should not run out of gas. France looked unprepared and although their team wasn’t as strong as the one announced before clubs didn’t give permission, they were still a tough side but didn’t look anywhere close to what was expected. While a lot of it was down to Mexico’s great play, they also looked overwhelmed as they had definitely underrated Mexico and looked to be caught by surprise. They should probably not have a similar situation against Japan, but there should be a boost from the result so that Mexico might improve against Japan as they try to get the result that qualifies them to the quarterfinal stage.