Mexico vs Portugal preview: Difficult Confederations Cup opener awaits El Tri

Mexico vs Portugal preview: Difficult Confederations Cup opener awaits El Tri

This summer’s Confederations Cup is all about opportunities for Mexico.

It’s an opportunity for El Tri to prove that it is capable of succeeding outside of the CONCACAF region. A chance to show that it can win more than just Gold Cup titles.

For manager Juan Carlos Osorio, the tournament will be an opportunity to finally push away the nightmare of last year’s Copa America. If he succeeds in Russia, this year’s competition might also finally earn him the respect of countless fans who have questioned his ever-tinkering ways.

The ultimate goal of winning the title, although unlikely, isn’t out of reach for Mexico.

Unlike other matches in the recent past, El Tri is charging into this tournament with a healthy roster. Other than the omission of winger Jesus “Tecatito” Corona, Osorio will be able to count on numerous talented names this summer. The depth is finally there for Mexico, leaving the manager with the task of figuring out how he can properly utilize El Tri’s stacked squad.

All that said, it won’t be easy for Mexico in the team’s Confederations Cup opener on Sunday.

A Portugal roster led by Cristiano Ronaldo awaits El Tri. With a number of impressive midfielders, A Selecção has the potential to make things very difficult for Osorio this weekend. It also must be noted that Portugal is heading into this game with only two losses in its last 17 matches in all competitions.

Will Mexico be able to walk away with at least a point on Sunday?

Key to success for El Tri — Efficiency in the attack

Although the 1-1 draw against the United States wasn’t a bad result for Mexico last week, there was one glaring problem: A lack of shots on target. After maintaining a dominant total of 74% possession in the CONCACAF Hexagonal match, El Tri collected a meager tally of one shot on target.

Portugal will of course be less compact than the USMNT, therefore giving Mexico more space to roam, but El Tri should seek to be more potent when it has the ball in the final third.

Keeping in mind that Portugal’s midfield might be able to dictate the pace of the game, Mexico might not have very many chances to spare in the attack.

Mexican player to watch — Carlos Vela

Without a firecracker like Tecatito available for Mexico, Vela will now have more responsibility on the wings.

Luckily for Mexico fans, the Real Sociedad player has appeared more motivated than normal in recent weeks. Whether it be due to the influence of Osorio, or his unexpected maturity, Vela has quickly become a dependable figure in the attack.

If Vela maintains his form, or somehow steps it up, there isn’t a single defender in the tournament that will be able to stop the talented winger.

Predicted score — Mexico 2-2 Portugal

We might have a thrilling match on Sunday. Both sides have exciting attacking names that will be eager to have a strong start to the competition. Despite the fact that we don’t know how Osorio will lineup his team, it wouldn’t be surprising to see a starting XI that won’t be afraid to put pressure on Portugal in the opening game.

Predicted lineup for Mexico

Backline of three? Four?

Another question is how that midfield will look like. If Rafael Marquez is match-fit, there might not be space for a player like Jonathan dos Santos or Hector Herrera as the team’s defensive midfielder.

Up top, a front three of Hirving Lozano, Javier Hernandez and Carlos Vela is expected, but I wouldn’t be surprised if a more physical and strong name like Raul Jimenez starts in Lozano’s position.