They finally did it, Mexico has proved us wrong. For the seventh time in a round, they met their end in the Round of 16. Here we thought that this was the year in which the disappointment ends.
For a country that prides itself when comes down to soccer to the point in which it’s part of their identity, you’d think that success is part of it. Sure, many of their players have found tremendous success in European teams, but in the end, what will bring widespread glory is a World Cup victory. First, a recap.
• Mexico 1986: Quarter-finals (Eliminated by West Germany via Penalty shootout)
• Italy 1990: Banned
• USA 1994: Round of 16 (Eliminated by Bulgaria via Penalty shootout)
• France 1998: Round of 16 (Eliminated by Germany, 2-1)
• Japan/Korea 2002: Round of 16 (Eliminated by the USMNT, 2-0)
• Germany 2006: Round of 16 (Eliminated by Argentina, 2-1)
• South Africa 2010: Round of 16 (Eliminated by Argentina, 3-1)
• Brazil 2014: Round of 16 (Eliminated by Netherlands, 2-1)
• Russia 2018: Round of 16 (Eliminated by Brazil, 2-0)
During the World Cup draw, Mexico got the fortunate enough to end up in the “Group of Death”. Who were opponents? None other than the defending champions; Germany, in Group F’s opening match. Along came South Korea and Sweden. On paper, this was the worst possible scenario for El Tri.
To everyone’s surprise, especially the Germans, Mexico got the win. Then came South Korea. Despite their persistence, the Koreans were unable to top Mexico: only to walk away with a consultation goal.
Mexico walked into their final match of the group stage with all of the momentum of the world. The first half was an even contest and it could have one both ways. Once the 2nd half started, the team fell apart. Sweden wiped the floor with Mexico with two easy goals. To add insult to injury, Edson Velazquez an own goal to seal the match for Sweden.
Mexico was on the brink of elimination, but thanks to two last minute goals by South Korea on Germany, El Tri passed onto the next round. Brazil eagerly awaited their Group F opponent. The first half was relatively even, with both teams having scoring chances but failed to convert. Come the 2nd half, El Tri fell apart. Thanks to defensive frailties, Neymar scored. Mexico had a few more chances to tie, but their confidence kept dropping by the minute. By the last fifteen minutes, it desperation kicked in and it was only a matter of time before the Brazilians found the back of the net. At the 88th minute, Roberto Firmino took advantage of the desperation to score and secure the win.
It depends on the opponent Mexico faces, but there is a pattern that the team follows under certain circumstances. We saw this against Brazil and in 2014 against the Netherlands. When Mexico took the lead and preserved it for the majority of the match, they loosened up on their offense and defense, The Dutch capitalized on that and scored. With regular time coming to an end, Mexico should have focused on running the clock. Instead, they panicked. Once the Dutch worked themselves back into scoring range, Robben took a dive won the Netherlands the penalty kick that eliminated Mexico. It was similar today. Mexico found confront in being equal to Brazil and it seemed like the game was going into extra time. It didn’t pay off, they conceded two goals and were eliminated.
It wasn’t just how they played, but also who played. The biggest mistake that Juan Carlos Osorio made was starting Rafa Márquez. The 39 year-old defender brought nothing to the table. Neymar and co. breezed past and Marquez rarely got to touch the ball. Essentially, a glorified cone was playing defense; leaving Andrés Guardado and Hector Herrera to do more work. He was subbed off at half-time for Miguel Layun, but the damage was done. When there was plenty of time left, Osorio should have brought in Giovanni dos Santos in exchange for Carlos Vela. The problem with having Chicharito and Vela out is they can’t run the ball, they are strikers. When they had possession, their natural instinct is to take a shot. That left Irving Lozano as the only offensive player capable of cutting through the defense. Here was the ideal game for Dos Santos. Dos Santos and Lozano can create plays for Chicharito, if they know that they can’t score.
Over on the Brazilian side, it seemed like Neymar inherited the spirit of Arjen Robben. PGS’ golden boy contributed greatly to Mexico’s lack of patience. His frequent flopping helped run the clock, especially towards the end.
Thus, a promising start ended with another loss. For now, we are left to wonder if Osorio will keep his job or maybe it’s the end of another coaching chapter. That being said, don’t worry about Qatar 2022, yet.