And so it continues. The Mexican NT were unable to break free of their shackles against the tougher, more orderly squads. With a 2-1 loss in Girona to a Swedish side who didn’t even qualify for the 2022 World Cup, Mexico have closed out their prep matches and are set to travel to Doha tomorrow where they will face Poland to open up their WC next Tuesday.
Many would think Mexico came out and “manned” the match from the beginning. And despite the fact they did have overwhelming ball possession (65%), it really never translated into real danger. In the first half, they had 4 or 5 approaches that ended in attempts straight to keeper Nordfeldt. A lot of passing, yes. A lot of running, yes. But nothing that ever gave you a sense of dominance. It was more a result of Sweden sitting back and allowing Mexico to come at ‘em. And in the rare occasions the Swedes did go forward, they put El Tri’s defense in a pickle. And that foreshadowed the second half.
With Raúl Jiménez, Hirving Lozano, and Andrés Guardado all coming on to start the second 45 minutes, it seemed as if Mexico were primed to take complete control and put this one away. Jiménez was slow on the ball, failed to get into position correctly, and looked terribly out of rhythm. Lozano looked fast and was very involved, but simply failed to create space between himself and LB Augustinsson. His teammates didn’t help either. And Guardado played a couple good balls (one of them to Lozano), but is very limited in what he can do nowadays, considering his loss of speed and overall effectiveness on the wings. He was also the culprit in turning the ball over for Sweden’s first goal.
In terms of Mexico’s goal, it was a great heads up play by Herrera, who meant to put the ball exactly where he did, giving Alexis Vega the advantage to go 1-on-1 with the keeper, who ultimately converted into the bottom corner. But the fact it came on a lucky bounce on a loose ball header Luis Chávez lost against Jesper Karlström leaves you wondering about Mexico’s inability to make good decisions with the ball in the final third.
And with 6 minutes + stoppage time to go, Mexico’s biggest enemy against these world class teams showed up yet again: set pieces. Now, I’m still trying to understand how off a corner against one of the tallest teams in the world, 6 ft 3 inch Emil Holm could be left as wide open as he actually was. If you look at the replay, the dude wasn’t even touched until he headed it backward to an open Mattias Svanberg, who masterfully kissed the ball into the bottom corner of the goal.
And Mexico didn’t approach Sweden’s goal again. It was a display of what we’ve seen the last couple years, and has progressively gotten worse. If you’re Mexico, you just lost to the country ranked 25th by FIFA, and looked utterly inferior (not to mention inept) in all phases of the game. They didn’t even take their complete squad, didn’t start their best players, and beat you with so little. How is it possible Mexico are 12 spots ahead of Sweden in the FIFA ranking? Not to mention, you’re days away from facing 26th ranked Poland (who beat Sweden 2-0 for their WC spot) and 3rd ranked Argentina, but I digress.
So, what DID I like from today’s friendly? 1) It’s clear Alexis Vega should be starting opposite from Hirving Lozano on the wings. He really showed up today (as well as in the Iraq game), looked ready on every play and created a sense of danger everytime he touched the ball, whether a pass or a shot. 2) Luis Chávez. Man, did Pachuca get it right with this dude. It almost seemed he didn’t miss a single pass. He was well located, wasn’t afraid to participate, and was on target in all of his long passes, not to mention shots on goal. You’ve gotta love this guy’s attitude on the pitch. 3) Despite failing to make an impact today, Lozano looks sharp and quick when he takes the ball, That’s all you can ask for if you’re Martino. Just hope he does make one in the WC.
What else DIDN’T I like? 1) The entire defensive line. Sweden sat back for most of the match, but whenever they decided to be vertical, they caused all sorts of chaos down in Mexico’s box. And they did it at a 50% effort tops. Imagine if they’d trailed at some point. 2) Héctor Herrera. It’s so sad to see how much of a dip his career has taken. He misses so many passes and is so inefficient with the ball. He used to be such a threat outside the box. This despite his great assist on Vega’s goal. Plus everything else I’ve already mentioned.
The next time Mexico take the field, it’ll be for real. You never know what can happen in football. A red card, an own goal in your favor, and those types of things can help you to a better outcome than expected, especially in these short tournaments like the World Cup. But if logic reigns, Mexico should be out of the cup before they even take on Saudi Arabia. With that being said, hope is the last thing that dies.