Although it may not be enough for redemption, Mexico manager Juan Carlos Osorio will have one more chance this Sunday to leave Russia with his head held high. Following a 4-1 semifinal loss to Germany on Thursday, Osorio and his Mexican roster will now face Portugal in the third place match of the Confederations Cup.
A third place finish, on paper, should be seen as a success for the national team.
Four years after dropping out of the group stage of the same competition, a spot in the top three would easily highlight the progress that El Tri has made. Keeping in mind that Mexico is also cruising through World Cup qualifying, it wouldn’t be a stretch to assume that El Tri is reaching its expected goals…right?
That all depends on your perspective. While some media and fans see a team that was expected to finish in 3rd or 4th place, others see a squad that could have potentially achieved more with a different manager in charge.
Chances are, you’ve already seen the massive amount of criticism and anger regarding Osorio.
Just google “Fuera Osorio” and you’ll be sure to find an overwhelming amount of frustrated posts about the manager and El Tri. Those for and against Osorio both make good arguments, but at the center of this discussion is another glaring question.
Can Mexico keep up with the best teams in the world?
El Tri’s impressive run during the Confederations Cup group stage appeared to indicate that there was some hope, but after the loss to Germany in the semis, countless supporters are now reassessing their expectations.
Although Osorio should be criticized for his starting XI and substitutions in the defeat, it might be a harsh reality to recognize that the odds of a Mexico victory were very, very slim, regardless of the manager in charge. Then again, it wasn’t as if El Tri was no threat to Germany.
If you look past the Mexican media and fans, many praised the performance from the El Tri side that dominated possession and racked up an immense total of 26 shots.
Either way that we look at Mexico’s situation, Sunday’s match will provide some much-needed answers for all involved: For those who question Osorio, for those who support him and for those who want a more clear picture of El Tri’s current status in world soccer.
Most importantly, for Osorio, the third place match might provide some breathing room for the manager who has been given little room for mistakes.
Key to success for Mexico — Capitalize on opportunities in the final third
Despite the criticism surrounding El Tri, Mexico seems to do be doing an excellent job of holding onto the ball. Believe it or not, in every match of the 2017 Confederations Cup that involved El Tri, no other team had more possession than Osorio’s roster.
All that’s missing is more efficiency from the attack in the final third.
A perfect example in which this was a problem was the recent semifinal against Germany. After racking up the aforementioned 26 shots, Mexico finished the match with only one goal. Looking past the arguments against Osorio, a significant part of the blame for the defeat must be put on the shoulders of the attackers that failed to find the back of the net.
On Sunday, El Tri must be more productive with its chances.
Mexico player to watch — Carlos Vela
Say what you will about Osorio, but there was no reason for him to leave Vela on the bench against Germany. Not saying that the winger could have single-handedly beat the Germans, but he would have at least made more of an impact than a few players in the starting XI.
Now, the 28-year-old should be more than ready to take charge against Portugal this Sunday.
If Osorio is hoping to emerge with a positive result, he should aim to give a starting role to arguably Mexico’s most talented player.
Predicted score — Mexico 3-2 Portugal
I’m expecting an open-ended game here between the two sides that might field a few backup options. Unfortunately for Portugal, the team will be without Cristiano Ronaldo, which is clearly good news for Mexico.
Predicted starting XI for El Tri
After a suspension, I’m expecting Andres Guardado to return to the starting XI. The hard-working Javier Aquino is worthy of a starting role and so is Vela. Up top, I wouldn’t be surprised if Osorio gives an opportunity to Raul Jimenez and gives a break to Javier Hernandez. In the middle, Rafael Marquez might be playing in what could be one of his last starts for El Tri in an official competition.