Mexico 1-0 Panama: El Tri has officially qualified for the 2018 World Cup

Mexico 1-0 Panama: El Tri has officially qualified for the 2018 World Cup

Friday night’s 1-0 win over Panama wasn’t Mexico’s best performance. In fact, one can make the argument that El Tri needed a bit of luck to avoid a draw during the recent World Cup qualifier.

Supported by a lone goal from Hirving Lozano in the 53rd minute, Mexico sneaked by a Panama side that was more dangerous than expected at the Estadio Azteca. Once the final whistle blew, Los Canaleros were clearly frustrated after failing to get one shot past Guillermo Ochoa.

On any other day, the lack of a convincing win at home would be the talking point from Mexican fans and media. El Tri is always expected to flex its muscle at the historic Azteca, and when a minnow like Panama waltzes into town, at least a couple of goals are expected from the home side.

That didn’t matter on Friday, and for good reason. Following the 1-0 victory over Panama, Mexico has now officially earned a place in the next World Cup. It wasn’t a classic showing or a memorable evening, but that probably doesn’t bother the squad that has now reserved a spot in next summer’s tournament.

Here are three talking points from the recent El Tri win:

1. Mexico has qualified for the 2018 World Cup

After cruising through the first seven games of CONCACAF’s Hexagonal with five victories and two draws, El Tri has not only earned an early spot in Russia 2018, but also pushed away the dark clouds lingering from the previous qualifying run.

Undesirable images from 2013 come to mind when thinking about the last time Mexico took part in the Hex. Were it not for an incredible bicycle kick from Raul Jimenez, and also plenty of help from the USMNT, El Tri would have missed out on the 2014 World Cup.

Four years later, Mexico has now clinched a spot for next summer’s tournament with three games left in its qualifying schedule.

For all of the criticism that manager Juan Carlos Osorio has received, doubters of the Colombian have to admit that although he has been questionable, he has also accomplished his main goal.

2. Vela who? Corona and Lozano were brilliant on the wings

On paper, Carlos Vela is the most talented player on the Mexican national team. Agile, intelligent and crafty with his movement, it’s no wonder that he was once recognized as one of the top players in La Liga.

Unfortunately for the winger, he was nowhere to be found on Friday. Whether it be due to recent travel or his busy summer, it looked as if the game against Panama was his second of the day. Despite the fact that he had a role in the lone goal, Vela was largely ineffective for Mexico.

While Vela struggled, Jesus “Tecatito” Corona and Lozano thrived up front for El Tri. Corona took much-needed risks for Mexico in the attack and produced the assist for the game-winner. As for Lozano, who was substituted in during the 51st minute, the PSV Eindhoven player did more in his 39 minutes than most other players on the field.

Lozano’s goal was the icing on the cake and a massive statement before the World Cup. The 22-year-old might be a backup for now, but as long as he continues to shine for club and country, an aging star like Vela might eventually get pushed onto the bench.

3. Will we see major rotaciones during the last qualifiers?

Like it or not, there’s a good chance that Osorio will bring back his infamous rotations for the national team. After guaranteeing a spot in the next World Cup, it’s understandable why the manager would want to try out a few different formations or new players in the final qualifying games.

Take for example, October’s match at home against Trinidad & Tobago. Considering that El Tri has nothing to lose, and that the opposition is currently sitting in last place, it’s almost pragmatic for Osorio to try out a couple of new faces in the second-to-last qualifier.

In the next call-up list that should be revealed in just a few weeks, don’t be surprised to see more backups and fringe players than normal.

Mexico’s best against Panama — Jesus “Tecatito” Corona

Corona probably lost the ball more than he should have on Friday. He also wasn’t successful with every dribble or run that he made. Purely looking at stats, the Porto player was more than likely one of the worst players on the field.

Yet, what set Tecatito apart from the rest of his teammates was his willingness to take risks and make those mistakes. Having a player like that is essential for a Mexico side that sometimes struggles with creativity. He is a wild card, and even if he is more adventurous than he should be with the ball, Corona’s audacity also provides several moments of beauty on the field.

On Friday, the winger proved to be the key figure in the attack with his bold and daring style of play.

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