It almost coudn’t have been any other way as Mexico routed an extremely talent-deprived and limited Iraq squad 4-0 in their second to last friendly before heading to Qatar. It was an all around dominant performance with little to no danger for keeper Talavera to deal with, while Mexico’s attacking opportunities appeared to be endless. 19 total shots (6 on target) with 74% ball possession against 1 total shot (0 on target) and 26% possession. That pretty much sums it up.
From the start, you could tell it would be a totally one-sided affair. Iraq were set up with a 5-4-1 inside their own half, practically begging Mexico to take the initiative and attack. And they did. All it took to break that scheme was a grand total of three minutes with a well executed counter and Mexico never looked back. Henry Martin showed some promising stuff, getting involved in play creation and helping out teammates. Gallardo was also heavily involved offensively and looked good for the first 15-20 minutes. Even Héctor Herrera took the ball and sprinted forward with it menacingly, looking like his old self.
The one thing I didn’t understand about the first half, however, is why Mexico stopped attacking. It seemed like they got bored of passing the ball around in Iraq’s final third and started to retreat / relax in a way. It was clear they took their foot off the gas for the last 20 minutes of the half and didn’t play with the same concentration and intensity they did at the start. These are the games where you have the chance to try, risk, and fail with the other team not posing much of a threat, so them doing that didn’t make much sense.
The second half brought about better news however. Funes Mori showed up in a big way today, scoring three minutes into the second half on a tough one-touch pointer. But more than the goal, it was his overall performance that was the highlight. He served as a post player, completed passes nicely, got open in the box, and looked dangerous on the ball. That’s the Funes Mori of old we’ve been expecting. Now he must translate that to the Sweden match and furthermore in Qatar.
Other notable performances:
- Chivas’ Roberto Alvarado looked good all game. He played the right wing in the first half and the left in the second. He was one of the few who dared to take the ball and dribble off Iraq defenders in an attempt to make things happen. He was a provocateur on the wings for Mexico, and that’s something Martino urgently needs.
- Alexis Vega was subbed off at halftime, but had a pretty acceptable first half performance. Aside from the goal, he also looked dangerous when taking the ball, was involved in play creation, moved off the ball, and attempted a couple more shots. The more confidence these guys get up front, the better.
- I’d love to say the defense looked great, and they did in their extremely limited opportunities. But that’s also the down side here. They were never put to the test or stretched to the point you can actually grade them fairly. Other than a badly timed Talavera pass which turned the ball over in his own box, there was no real threat from Iraq whatsoever.
In the end, it was a win Mexico had to have against a side like Iraq. You had to win (which they did) in dominant fashion (which they did). You thrashed them 4-0 (should’ve been 3-0 since stoppage time PK was not a hand ball) and looked good, but can’t forget your opponent level. So, today’s victory was a great confidence booster at best, which is something Mexico desperately needed.
The European players will arrive between Saturday and Monday to complete the squad of 30 before ‘Tata’ turns in his final 26-man roster on Monday. Huge test next Wednesday against Sweden which will give us a much more realistic take on where this NT stands.