It’s all about perspective.
Back in 2013, Mexico was in a completely different form during its previous World Cup qualifying run. Following two dismal draws against Jamaica and Honduras, El Tri earned a third in a row through a 0-0 result with the United States at the Estadio Azteca. After the draw, immediate criticism emerged from media and fans who were not only angry, but also concerned about the fate of the Mexican national team.
History will tell us that El Tri eventually found a spot for the 2014 World Cup, but it required a bit of luck, some help from San Zusi and an inter-confederation playoff match against New Zealand. It all of course worked for Mexico, but it wasn’t pretty.
Four years later, El Tri has once again earned a draw at home against the United States, but the situation couldn’t be further than the one seen in 2013.
Mexico has earned four points over the last two matches against the USMNT and is currently sitting comfortably at the top of the Hexagonal. El Tri has remained undefeated in the current round of World Cup qualifying and has only allowed two goals over six games.
First 6 Hex games in the books with 14 of 18 possible points. Four years ago, it was 8 of 18 points. Buenas noches, #ConfederationsCup, next
— Nayib Morán (@nayibmoran) June 12, 2017
Am I making excuses for Mexico? Perhaps.
El Tri was fairly average against the USMNT on Sunday and wasn’t as thrilling as expected in the attack. Only Carlos Vela, who scored Mexico’s lone goal in the first half, was able to find a shot on target. That said, manager Juan Carlos Osorio has clearly revamped and reawakened an El Tri roster which has yet to lose a match in the Hex.
Following the recent draw, here are three talking points for Mexico.
1. Hector Herrera is on the rise for El Tri
For several months, Herrera was by far the most disappointing player for the Mexican national team. Whether it be a friendly, a World Cup qualifier or an appearance at the Copa America, the midfielder would regularly go for long stretches of time without much of an influence for El Tri.
Yet, in Mexico’s last two matches, the 27-year-old has been brilliant.
Against the United States, Herrera was tireless with his endless amount of passes going forward. The Porto player, who was the glue in Mexico’s midfield, led the team with an imposing total of 82 passes on Sunday night. During the second half, Herrera also nearly found the game-winner for El Tri through a long-range free kick that eventually rattled the post.
Mexico is currently stacked in the midfield, but with two solid performances in hand, the talented name from Baja California is set to be a continued starter under Osorio.
— Tom Harrison (@tomh_36) June 12, 2017
2. Defensive questions continue to emerge for Osorio
On Sunday, Osorio once again raised a few eyebrows when he started with a backline of four central defenders. Although there was little to complain about from each defender, the decision was representative of the issues surrounding the backline.
Looking ahead to the Confederations Cup, there seems to be no consensus on not only who his best options are, but also whether he will favor a three or four-man backline.
The status of recovering names like Rafael Marquez and Nestor Araujo are still questionable and it’s still unclear on how the versatile Miguel Layun will be utilized. Keeping in mind that Mexico will soon be up against a superstar like Cristiano Ronaldo, Osorio will need to be extremely careful with his defensive formation and starters.
Speaking of the match against Portugal…
3. Time to focus on the Confederations Cup
Immediately following the draw with the United States, Mexico boarded a plane to Amsterdam which will then take them to Kazan, Russia.
Officially known as Russia’s “Third Capital,” Kazan will be the site for two of Mexico’s three group stage matches in the Confederations Cup. Games against Portugal, New Zealand and the tournament host, Russia, await El Tri in Group B of the competition.
On paper, Mexico should be able to find a way into the knockout round of the competition. Although a loss might be inevitable against Portugal, the same can’t be said against New Zealand or even Russia. A group stage exit, regardless of how El Tri plays, will be seen as a failure for Mexico.
With less than a week to prepare for the first match against Portugal on June 18th, Osorio will have little time to fine-tune any problems seen from recent matches.
— Tom Marshall (@mexicoworldcup) June 12, 2017
Mexico’s best player against the USMNT — Hector Herrera
As mentioned earlier, Herrera was superb for Mexico. The midfielder turned back the clock and looked like the promising and exciting name that first moved to Porto in 2013.
The big question now is if the player, who is somewhat infamous for a lack of consistency, can maintain and transition this form into the Confederations Cup. If the 27-year-old continues to shine, and if other key players are fit by the end of the week, Mexico might have a fighting chance for an exciting performance in Russia this summer.