Mexico suffered and came close to a disastrous result, but with a late goal they were able to open their road to the 2022 World Cup with a 2-1 win at home against Jamaica. Mexico dominated possession against a very defensive Jamaican team who were missing a number of players because of the ban by the English Premier League of player travel to red listed countries according to the United Kingdom’s COVID-19 monitoring system. Yet after taking the lead, a bad mistake allowed Jamaica a tie before Mexico re-took the lead late. It was a bad performance for Mexico but an important win because of the other results, it ended up being the only win in the first date of the final round of CONCACAF’s qualification. This means that Mexico currently sits in first place with three points and the only win. Mexico will now have to travel and face a very tough Costa Rica side in San Jose, where they hope to get points after their away tie against Panama.
The first half started with Mexico coming out with a lineup with the majority of players being part of the U23 Tokyo Olympic squads while Jamaica was coming in with a very weakened lineup with the UK sanctions leading to most of the key team staying in Jamaica. Mexico had five of the eleven players playing in their local stadium in Estadio Azteca, something that could be key. The game started in the rain, which is something that typically hampers Mexico. To nobody’s surprise, Jamaica sat back from the start and waited for a counter. Mexico had complete control of possession, but Jamaica was doing a good job of not allowing Mexico any opportunities. Jesus Gallardo and Sebastian Cordova had the first shots, but both went wide. Mexico had the best opportunity when a cross by Jorge Sanchez found Rogelio Funes Mori, but he missed badly with his header. Minutes later it was Sebastian Cordova who rose to head a ball, but it went wide. Jamaica was frustrating Mexico, who once again looked to have trouble against a very defensive rival. Jamaica had a great opportunity when Jesus Gallardo deflected the ball into the path of a Jamaican attacker, but Mexico’s goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa was able to get the ball off his feet. Mexico answered with a left footed shot that went just wide. Mexico had a good opportunity when Luis Romo got a shot from outside the area that Jamaica goalkeeper Andre Blake failed to control, but it fell right to a Jamaican defender. Alexis Vega came close with a shot that Blake had to make a good save on. Mexico continued to dominate, but didn’t create much with their constant crosses that were easily cleared by the taller Jamaican defenders. The halftime whistle blew and once again, Mexico had failed to impose their offense against a very defensive side.
The second half started with Mexico needing to improve fast before they get into more trouble. In the first opportunity, Roberto Alvarado got a good cross into the area but Vega missed his backheel attempt to shoot. Then after a shot was deflected into the path of Alexis Vega, who made a good move and got off a shot that went past Blake for the 1-0 lead. It was an early goal, and Mexico almost took advantage of the momentum immediately when they gained a ball and Vega made a good pass to Alvarado, who got into the area and got off a left footed shot that went wide. Jamaican players started to suffer because of the altitude as they started to cramp. Jamaica made their first moves by subbing out Romario Williams and Norman Campbell for Javon East and Junior Flemmings. Mexico missed a clear chance when after a three-on-three, Funes Mori made a great play and found a wide open Alvarado, who sent his shot into the post in a terrible miss. It ended up being terribly costly to Mexico when off a longball, Jorge Sanchez lowered the ball right into Shamar Nicholson, who got off a left footed shot past Ochoa for the 1-1 equalizer. It was a terrible mistake by Sanchez, and more proof that Mexico paid on the terrible miss by Alvarado. Mexico continued to have possession, but the surprising goal had been a big hit for Mexico and it showed. Off of a free kick, Sebastian Cordova forced Blake to make a good save. Mexico made their first move by subbing out Cordova and Roberto Alvarado for Orbelin Pineda and Uriel Antuna. They almost got off a to a great start when Sanchez got off a great cross that Pineda headed, forcing Blake to make a save. There was a clash of heads between Luis Romo and Flemmings that forced the game to be stopped, although both continued in the match. Jamaica subbed out Cory Burke for Oniell Fisher while Mexico subbed out Alexis Vega for Henry Martin. Mexico had a chance when a cross by Gallardo turned into a shot but Blake was able to clear it. Jamaica subbed out Nicholson and Anthony Grant for Peter Vassell and Javain Brown. Jamaica was going all defensive with the substitutions, and Mexico continued with their repetitive display. Then after a pass into the area, Romo wasn’t able to control it but it fell perfectly to Henry Martin, who got off a rocket shot past Blake for the 2-1 lead. Mexico subbed out Rogelio Funes Mori and Luis Romo for Carlos Rodriguez and Andres Guardado. Mexico wasted a great counter when off a three-on-two, Martin ended up sending his pass right to a Jamaican defender. Still Mexico was able to handle and got the win after a match they had complicated themselves.
In what seems to be a constant, Mexico will need to improve against CONCACAF opposition. With a very defensive effort, Jamaica complicated things for Mexico in what many people expected to be an easier side because of the high number of players missing. Mexican fans had visions of Coach Jose Manuel “Chepo” de la Torre’s disastrous campaign in 2013 which started with a scoreless tie and had him fail to win a single game in Estadio Azteca before getting fired after giving Mexico only their second ever loss in a World Cup qualifier in Azteca against Honduras. Mexico was able to come back but only qualified in fourth place, winning the spot in the CONCACAF vs OFC playoff where they defeated New Zealand. Under Coach Gerardo Martino, Mexico once again looked without ideas against the defensive bunker, just as had happened in the 2021 Gold Cup against Trinidad and Tobago. Mexico constantly had crosses into the area, which Jamaican defenders easily cleared as they failed to trouble the Jamaican goalkeeper with long range shots. Still the late win wasn’t pretty but those key three points have Mexico in first place. Martino now has the upper hand against de la Torre by at least getting a win in Estadio Azteca and a the lead on the table. Mexico will now have two very tough visits to Central America to face Costa Rica and Panama, although Mexico might have a better team with the integration of Jesus Corona, who arrived late to Mexico because of dealing with a possible transfer than never came. Martino will need to do better with a side that is going to face this defensive displays in every game they play in Estadio Azteca. Now the pressure will come to now if Mexico’s traveling problems, something that is a constant in every World Cup qualification and not just with De la Torre also appear in this very complicated road to Qatar.