Mexico started their June tour of friendlies in the United States with a 2-1 victory over Nigeria. The match in Dallas was a solid win in which Mexico at times played really well and were able to be the better side over a Nigerian team that was missing various players, but overall had more European based starters than Mexico. The match in Dallas opens a three match friendly tour that will continue in Glendale, Arizona against Uruguay on June 2nd and ends in Chicago with a match against Ecuador on June 5th. Mexico will then travel to Torreon, where they will start their Nations League campaign with a match against Suriname before traveling to Kingston to face Jamaica in another Nations League match.
The first half started with Mexico facing a completely Europe-based starting eleven from Nigeria, with only one Europe-based player (Andres Guardado) as a starter for El Tri. Mexico came out as the better side, controlling the ball and handling it well against Nigeria. A good cross from Jesus Gallardo was just deflected off the head off Santiago Gimenez. Then after a longball into the area from Cesar Montes, Gallardo made a great play to head it into the path of Santiago Gimenez. Gimenez hit a left footed shot that bounced off Nigeria’s goalkeeper Francis Uzoho, but the rebound bounced off Gimenez’s leg and into the net for the 1-0 lead. Mexico continued to dominate, and Gimenez got off a great cross into the area that Guardado volleyed, but Uzoho made a great save to stop the goal. Later Gallardo got the ball, and his shot from outside the area went just wide. A cross into the area fell into the path of Gimenez, who got a strong shot in the area but it went wide. Mexico dominated the first 30 minutes, but Nigeria started to gain possession after that although Mexico did well in defending. Just prior to the halftime whistle, Mexico had a chance off of a free kick, but Hector Moreno’s volley went wide. Mexico took the lead after a very good first half, while Nigeria needed to improve after a poor performance.
The second half started with Nigeria subbing out Bonke Innocent for Sani Faisal. Nigeria went on the attack after the opening whistle. Mexico had a good chance when Gallardo almost got a great cross into the area, but it was cleared by a Nigerian defender. Then a good cross by Calvin Bassey was headed by Cyriel Dessers right to Mexico’s goalkeeper Rodolfo Cota, but he did an awful job of trying to stop the header and it went in for the 1-1 equalizer. It was a close header, but Cota did a very bad job in trying to swat the ball that went right to him and thus a major mistake. Mexico responded almost immediately however when Gimenez made a good pass to a surging Jesus Gallardo, who got a good cross into the area that Nigerian captain William Troost-Ekong tried to clear, but his clearance went right past Uzoho and into the net for an own goal and the 2-1 lead for Mexico. El Tri got the lead back quickly on a bad mistake, just as they had given up the lead on a mistake. After a play, it looked like Montes had injured himself and medical attention came on, but he remained in the match. Mexico meanwhile subbed out Rodolfo Pizarro and Fernando Beltran for Erick Gutierrez and Orbelin Pineda. Beltran didn’t have a great match, but Pizarro once again gave a incredibly mediocre performance, showing that he just seems too slow for the international game. Mexico then subbed out Santiago Gimenez, the best player on the field in the first half, for Henry Martin. Nigeria got a good chance when Terem Moffi went past his defender and got off a shot in the area, but it went well wide. Mexico had a good chance when Nigeria lost the ball, but after Gutierrez found Alvarado in the area, his shot went well wide. Nigeria then subbed out Terem Moffi for Victor Mbaoma. A good play from Mexico was wasted when Gallardo’s cross was badly hit by Gutierrez. Mexico subbed out Luis Romo and Roberto Alvarado for Edson Alvarez and Diego Lainez. Nigeria meanwhile subbed out Moses Simon and Cyriel Dessers for Ishaq Rafiu and Chiamaka Madu. Mexico had a great opportunity when a three-on-two play ended with a left footed shot by Lainez that almost was deflected in, but went just wide. While Nigeria tried to get that last goal, Mexico handled themselves well and held on for the victory over their African counterparts.
Coach Gerardo Martino will feel happy with the performance on Saturday by Mexico. Although not incredible, Mexico looked good at times, especially when taken into account how few European based players started. Martino had said that because of how players got into camp in different dates, he would go with the players that arrived earlier in camp, which were mostly Liga MX players. It looks like Martino has decided the next match against Uruguay will be the most important of the three. Among the players that stood out, the most notable was Santiago Gimenez. Although Gimenez didn’t have as great a season, on Saturday he was the best player on the pitch while he was on. Other players like Erick Aguirre, Cesar Montes, and Roberto Alvarado also had good games. The surprise was Jesus Gallardo, who had rightfully earned a lot of criticism during the qualifiers, yet played well against Nigeria. Mexico should have a squad closer to it’s A team in Arizona against Uruguay, but it wouldn’t be surprising if a couple of players from the Nigeria game get some minutes. After a lackluster second half of the qualifiers, there might be hope that Mexico will improve against a different set of rivals in 2022.