Mexico closed out their Gold Cup preparations with a 4-0 victory over a Nigeria squad that was very inexperienced. It was complete domination against a Nigerian team that had no cohesion and were totally out of their element. Yet it was a great test for Mexico, as it was a rival that lent itself perfectly to get Mexican players to prepare after their post Nations League break. Mexico played a rival that didn’t pose much of a threat, putting up a good performance prior to a tournament where Mexico is heavily favored to win it.
The first half started with Mexico giving their first start to Rogelio Funes Mori at forward, as he was paired up with Hirving Lozano and Jesus Corona. Mexico would be facing a Nigeria team who at most was a C squad, as most players were from the Nigerian league. Mexico was favored although, African sides have historically given Mexico a lot of problems. It took less less than a minute and a half however for Mexico to make their mark. After getting a corner kick, Corona send a cross that found a wide open Hector Herrera, who volleyed the ball past Nigeria’s goalkeeper Stanley Nwabali, and although a Nigeria defender tried to clear it, it went in for a 1-0 lead. A couple of minutes later, Mexico got another after Corona got into the area and made a pass to Lozano, who then found Rogelio Funes Mori in the area and his left footed shot went past Nwabali for the 2-0. Replays showed him to be close to being offside but it wasn’t called and he had scored a goal in his Mexican debut, just as Guillermo Franco did in 2005 against Guatemala.
Mexico continued to dominate against a Nigerian side that lacked a lot of cohesion. Mexico continued to dominate possession but lowered their intensity, as they faced a disorganized and a little reckless Nigerian side. Lozano got a shot off from outside of the area and force Nwabili to make a good save. He then got off another shot that went just wide. Later Lozano sent in a good cross that Funes Mori volleyed wide. Mexico continued to have possession, but had some problems with how fast and slippery the field was and with some reckless defending from Nigeria. Just before the halftime whistle off of a free kick cross, Herrera rose to head the ball and force Nwabali to make a save.
The second half continued with Mexico looking to build onto their lead and hoping to not have any injuries. Mexico got a chance and a great shot from Lozano which forced Nwabali to make a great save. On the ensuing corner kick, Nwabali almost went from hero to goat as he came out badly and allowed Mexico to get two headers, but the final header from Gilberto Sepulveda went right into the hands of Nwabali. Then Funes Mori made a great pass to Lozano, and it forced Nwabali to dive toward his feet and punch the ball. He knocked it right into the path of Hector Herrera, who got a low shot straight into the empty net for the 3-0 lead.
Mexico continued to dominate, as Nigeria’s players started to suffer physically because of the fact they were constantly chasing the ball around and weren’t used to the tempo of the Mexican National Team. Mexico took advantage of three Nigerian players falling injured to make their first substitutions. Jesus Corona, Rogelio Funes Mori, and Hector Herrera were subbed out for Efrain Alvarez, Orbelin Pineda, and Jonathan Dos Santos. Mexico continued to dominate, but after a hard foul on Carlos Salcedo, it started a small scrap. The referee had done a terrible job of handling the situation, allowing Nigeria to be reckless in their challenges while being quick on the fouls by Mexico. Then after a great cross from Erick Gutierrez to Jonathan Dos Santos, who was in the area and got a great right footed shot off a bounce and past Nwabali for the 4-0 lead. Mexico subbed out Luis Rodriguez and Carlos Salcedo for Kevin Alvarez (making his debut) and Jesus Gallardo. Later they subbed out Erick Gutierrez for Alan Cervantes, who was also making his Senior National Team debut. Nigeria then had their first dangerous chance when a Nigerian player got into the area and got a good cross past the Mexican defenders, but there was no one else forward and available for a tap in. After a good combination play, Gallardo got into the area, but his shot was saved by Nwabali. Later a cross by Lozano found Pineda in the area, but his shot bounced off of him into Nwabali’s arms. The ref call the game, and Mexico finished out their preparation with a clear deserved victory.
Mexico had a great result, however it was against a rival that was tough to get an idea of the level of difficulty it posed. Yet with Mexico not having the toughest Gold Cup group, it lends itself well as the teams they will face will increase in difficulty in the Gold Cup. Mexico will face the winner of the preliminary playoff between Trinidad and Tobago and French Guiana. French Guiana got a bye after Cuba’s National Team failed to get visas to get to their game but, Trinidad and Tobago should be favored after crushing Montserrat 6-1. Still they look to be the weakest rival of the group. The other rivals, Curaçao and El Salvador, look to be better but both are inferior to Mexico. They should be a good test for Mexico to improve before moving to the tougher competition of the knockout stages. Among the positives for the game has to be how Rogelio Funes Mori looked in his debut, looking to be an answer in center forward while Raul Jimenez is out. Also of note was a great performance from Erick Gutierrez, who had struggled with injuries during his PSV Eindhoven season as well as missing out on the Nations League tournament also because of injury. Other aspects to worry about however is that Luis Rodriguez continues to be in a slump. This may mean that Kevin Alvarez might get some time, although he didn’t look that good in his debut. Still Coach Gerardo Martino will hope to get some conclusions from this friendly as he faces a tough Gold Cup with the added pressure of being favorites and knowing that anything but a win will be seen as a failure.