Mexico closed out their summer friendlies with a 2-2 tie against Cameroon in a match played in San Diego. A late injury time goal saved coach Diego Cocca from his first loss as Mexico’s National Team coach. El Tri struggled at times, but overall got a deserved point in a very even match against Cameroon. Mexico are now set to begin the first of their two summer tournaments with their Nations League Finals semifinal clash against the United States in Paradise, Nevada on Thursday.
The match began with the news that Carlos Acevedo, the original starting goalkeeper, got injured during warmups and had to miss the match. Luis Malagon took his place. A long ball into the area could have turned into a chance, but Roberto de la Rosa failed to control the ball and gave it back to Cameroon. Cameroon then had a great chance when Karl Toko Ekambi got off a shot that forced Malagon to make a great save. Ekambi was given too much time to find a shot in the area. Mexico were having more possession, but you couldn’t say they were dominating the match as Cameroon did well in controlling them and Mexico’s opportunities were far from dangerous. After arriving late to a challenge, Gilberto Sepulveda got a yellow card and seemed to hurt Olivier Kemen. Then, after a bad mistake that started when Luis Romo lost the ball and started a counter, the ball got into the area and Nestor Araujo made an even worse mistake, gifting the ball to Bryan Mbeumo, who got the ball in the area and shot past Malagon for the goal that gave Cameroon the 1-0 lead.
Mexico kept possession, but without creating much danger. After a free kick, Luis Chavez’s cross was blocked, but Mexico gained the ball back and after getting a pass, defender Israel Reyes (who went up because of the free kick), shocked everybody by getting the ball and firing a high quality shot that went past Cameroon’s goalkeeper Fabrice Ondoa and into the net for the goal that evened the score at 1 apiece. It was the last play of the half and the score was now a better reflection of what had occurred on the field in the first 45.
The second half started with both teams hoping to improve. Cameroon had a wonderful chance after Mexico lost a ball, but a wide open Ngamaleu send his left-footed attempt wide in a bad miss. Mexico had two great attacks, but both were wasted with terrible crosses by Uriel Antuna. Because of an injury, Olivier Mbaizo had to be subbed out for Enzo Tchato. In an incredible mistake, a harmless cross into the area by Pierre Kunde went right to the hands of Malagon, who created a blooper and fumbled the ball through his legs into the path of Karl Tolo Ekambe, who easily slotted the ball into the empty net for the goal, giving Cameroon the 2-1 lead. It was a bad mistake and one of the worst for a Mexican goalkeeper in years.
A good combination by Mexico was wasted by a terrible shot from Romo. Soon after, a free kick by Chavez came close but went just wide. A cross into the area reached Reyes, but he failed to connect with his head and the ball was cleared when he tried to get off a shot. Mexico looked for the goal in the final minutes, but couldn’t create danger as Cameroon sat back completely. It appeared Cameroon had things under control in the dying minutes, but a terrible mistake gave Mexico a lifeline they took. After a failed attack by Mexico, Kunde inexplicably tried to lob the ball over the head of Mexico’s player in a incredibly cutesy play and instead bounced the ball right outside the area to Rodriguez, losing the ball to Martin who then made a great pass in the area into the path of Kevin Alvarez, who proceeded to fire off a strong shot past Ondoa for the 94th minute goal that tied the match at 2-2. In the final minutes, a scuffle between Rodriguez and Oumar Gonzalez got bigger and the final minutes ended were dominated by that as the match finished 2 apiece.
Mexico struggled at times, but overall played better on Saturday than in their first summer friendly against Guatemala last Wednesday against a tougher team. Although Mexico had more of the possession, Cameroon had better opportunities as Mexico were barely dangerous at all. That being said, both teams came out with their B squads. In a somewhat worrying issue, Mexico have only seen action with 1 Euro-based player in these friendlies in Jorge Sanchez, as Raul Jimenez had to be operated after the Guatemala match and will be out the rest of the summer. Still, that wasn’t a surprise since rumors circulated where he wouldn’t be called up for either tournament probably because of that persistent injury. Thus, the starting 11 for the United States match could be filled with players that have skipped the camp so far, a totally different situation from the stars and stripes, who played no friendly, but have hosted their training camp with their Euro contingent.
This might mean that Mexico gave time off so the players could be available for the Gold Cup (rumors are strong that many Euro-based players from the USA will only play in the Nations League) and thus needed the time off. Although this might be the sensible thing to do, it might be a costly thing for Mexico to getting a positive result on Thursday. El Tri will play the USA on Thursday and depending on the result, will play either the final or the 3rd place game on Sunday.