After trailing in the team’s Confederations Cup opener on Sunday, El Tri somehow found a way to equalize the scoreline on two separate occasions. For a national side that is constantly criticized for a feeble matchday mentality, it was refreshing to see Mexico work hard to earn a well-deserved point.
Javier Hernandez and Hector Moreno should be recognized for their goals, but other names like Jonathan dos Santos, Carlos Vela and Guillermo Ochoa were just impressive with their determination and tenacity on the field.
Thanks to these aforementioned names, El Tri has survived its most difficult test of the group stage. Although Mexico still has games left against Russia and New Zealand, the path to a spot in the knockout round has now become much easier after earning Sunday’s result.
Here are three talking points for El Tri from the recent draw.
1. Defense was Mexico’s weak link
Were it not for Guillermo Ochoa’s highlight-worthy saves, or the Video Assistant Referee (VAR), El Tri could have easily lost Sunday’s match.
What a save from Ochoa. #eltrieng. That was robbery.
— Jason Marquitz (@soccermexicana) June 18, 2017
Mexico’s defense struggled to take control of its area of the field and constantly appeared disorganized. Despite the fact that El Tri had more possession in the draw, Portugal was able to capitalize on Mexico’s porous backline with more shots and opportunities in the attack.
One name worth highlighting is Carlos Salcedo, who was El Tri’s most disappointing player of the match. Salcedo nearly scored on his own net and was mostly at fault for Portugal’s first goal of the draw. Once the second half rolled around, it wasn’t surprising to see the right-back substituted out for Nestor Araujo in the 67th minute.
Will manager Juan Carlos Osorio field the same defense against New Zealand? With talented names like Rafael Marquez, Luis Reyes, Oswaldo Alanis and Araujo on his bench, Osorio might want to mix things up with his backline in the next match.
2. Vela continues to shine for the national team
After strong performances in World Cup qualifiers earlier this month, Vela has been able to maintain his exciting form for El Tri. Once a player who appeared fairly ambivalent towards the national team, and soccer in general, the winger is now much more mature and dedicated than ever before.
Perhaps it has something to do with his age. After recently turning 28, Vela might recognize the fact that he is possibly at the peak of his career. Depending on his form, and what the player pool looks like in 2022, there’s also a decent chance that next year’s World Cup might be his last.
Whatever the reason, Vela is now a game-changer for El Tri and a guaranteed starter for Osorio. The winger’s assist for Hernandez’s goal highlighted the vision and patience that makes him such a skilled player.
The settle and intelligence Vela has for that goal to Chicharito is just perfect. Speechless. Well done. Still shaking. #ElTriEng
— Amelia Lopez (@AztecaAmeliaaa) June 18, 2017
Another full-back error, but a great goal. Vela intelligently crossed rather than shot, and Hernández’s movement was excellent. #eltrieng
— Tom Harrison (@tomh_36) June 18, 2017
3. The knockout round might soon be within reach
There’s still plenty that can go wrong for Mexico. Although El Tri will be the favorites against Russia and New Zealand, one wouldn’t have to go too far into the past to find disappointing results for the national team.
That said, after earning an unexpected point against Portugal, Mexico is now one giant step closer to a spot in the knockout round. As long as Osorio finds a way to organize his defense, there should be no reason why El Tri won’t be taking part in the semifinals of the Confederations Cup.
Best player from Mexico — Jonathan dos Santos
Dos Santos was energetic, aggressive and dynamic in the midfield. The 27-year-old never seemed to show the slightest hint of fatigue while he constantly chased and pressured Portugal. We also can’t forget his assist for Moreno in the 92nd minute that helped rescue a point.
Without question, Dos Santos was the best player on the field.
— Jorge Mendoza (@JorgeMendoza) June 18, 2017