Over the past several months, Mexico manager Juan Carlos Osorio has thrived with the national team. Following an undefeated run in the first six games of World Cup qualifying, the coach has recently taken El Tri into the knockout round of the Confederations Cup.
However, despite this success, it has still been difficult to win over many fans who are nervous about his tinkering ways. Whether it be due to his occasional utilization of backup options, or his tendency to use players in atypical positions, Osorio continues to remain as a questionable figure in Mexican soccer.
While some see a modern manager with a knack for consistently providing good results, others see a mad scientist who is one experiment away from a massive failure. The Colombian is undoubtedly a polarizing figure, but with each passing game, it has become more and more difficult to argue against his methods.
On Thursday, Osorio will once again have another big opportunity prove his doubters wrong.
After securing a spot in the knockout round of the Confederations Cup, the manager will now face Germany in the semifinals of the competition. While some may point out that the opposition is essentially a “B” team, there are still highly talented names such as Julian Draxler and Marc-Andre ter Stegen which should make things difficult for El Tri.
Can Osorio find a win and earn a place in the final?
Key to success for Mexico — Finding the right replacements for Guardado and Reyes
Against Germany, El Tri will unfortunately be without starters Andres Guardado and Diego Reyes. Thanks to a suspension, Guardado won’t be able to return to Mexico’s starting XI until the third place or final match. As for Reyes, there seems to be no indication that the injured player will be ready for the semifinal.
Although Osorio might be tempted to bring in a veteran like Rafael Marquez into the defense, giving another opportunity to Nestor Araujo would be more ideal in Reyes’ position. Then again, we might see both Araujo and Marquez working alongside Hector Moreno if Osorio goes with a three-man backline.
In the midfield, Giovani dos Santos and Marco Fabian appear as the most likely names to replace Guardado. Considering Dos Santos’ less-than-exciting form, Fabian would be the best replacement in the midfield — especially when you consider his Bundesliga experience as well.
Mexico player to watch — Javier Aquino
Whether he’s given minutes as a starter or a second half substitute, Aquino is easily one of the players to keep an eye on.
During the tournament, the winger has emerged as one of El Tri’s best with his daring and exciting runs. After noteworthy performances in the group stage, it’s no surprise that Ligue 1’s Lille are apparently rumored to be interested in the 27-year-old.
Following an unexpected absence of Jesus “Tecatito” Corona for Mexico this summer, El Tri needed a wildcard to take charge on the wings. Although Aquino might not be on the same level as a Tecatito, the Tigres player has done an incredible job playing in his role.
During Thursday’s semifinal, Germany might have a difficult time against the agile and flashy Liga MX star.
Predicted score — Mexico 2-2 Germany (Mexico wins in penalties)
If this was the German “A” team, this would be a different story.
Believe it or not, I believe that El Tri can keep up with the European giants. Names such as Carlos Vela, Javier Hernandez, Hector Moreno, Miguel Layun and Aquino all have the talents to help Mexico push through with a historic victory.
Predicted starting XI for Mexico
Will Hirving Lozano start on the left wing? Aquino has had a better tournament, but it wouldn’t be too strange to see Lozano or Raul Jimenez given the start in that position. Fabian appears as a strong candidate to start in the midfield and Luis Reyes might be given a big chance at left-back as well. Let’s see what happens. As well all know, Osorio is predictably unpredictable…