Tag Archives: Mexico

14. Mexico

What Went Right?  Not the world’s most creative attack, but Mexico did make very good use of long balls into the attacking end, even on buildup from the back. They did a good job of getting on the end of long passes and through balls. Scored all of their four goals on opposition mistakes and mental lapses or on penalties. Pretty one-dimensional, east-west attack, but they did make it work for them for the most part because of effective use of their speed. Attack got energized when they made substitutions after halftime when they brought in Cuauhtemoc Blanco to create an attack in the center and Javier Hernandez to finish. For the most part maintained their defensive shape pretty well in the group stages, but that was probably more of a function of the less-than-impressive attacks they were facing. Very good at 50-50 balls and defending set pieces.

What Went Wrong?  Mexico didn’t get in the box with any regularity. This was too much of an end-to-end team and not enough of a north-south team. Had the speed and quickness to create space, get into space and make diagonal runs, but for some reason they just didn’t. Gave up possession and played defense at the expense of creating an effective and sustainable attack. Chose to attack more in the center than down the flanks, and even then preferred long balls down the meat of the opposition as opposed to any sustained offensive buildup. Didn’t effectively use their midfield to create a concerted, orchestrated attack – after all, why make short sustaining passes when you can just crush the ball downfield? Service into the attacking third mostly consisted of long crosses, passes and through balls with plenty of air underneath them, allowing for opposition defenders to easily intercept them.

Who Stepped Up To The Plate?  The backline from left to right of Carlos Salcido, Hector Moreno, Francisco Rodriguez and Ricardo Osirio defended well and kept Mexico in every game. Rafael Marquez and Andres Guardado  were very good dispossessors in front of the backline and were the frequent perpetrators of those long through balls and passes to the front. Giovanni dos Santos was a more than capable front man and made it difficult for opposition defenses with his freedom to roam. Blanco and Hernandez for reasons I’ve already explained. Oscar Perez was O.K. in goal

Who Didn’t Show Up?  The extent to with Salcido and Juarez contributed to the attack consisted sole of really bad long passes downfield. Gerardo Torrado wasn’t even competent as a midfield orchestrator. Midfield attackers Adolfo Bautista and Carlos Vela made bad long passes and through balls, didn’t work the flanks very well, and were especially bad at any kind of quality attacking buildup. And Guillermo Franco? Child, please.

How Was The Coaching?  Javier Aguirre expected a little more out of this side. He thought they were at least going to get to the quarterfinals. If that was the goal then he should have had this side doing way more in attack and using much more of the pitch. Movement, spacing, organization, vision, orchestration were just missing altogether. To that end he didn’t live up to his own expectations.

Did They Finish Where They Were Expected?  I thought Mexico would win their group. I even thought they might get a favorable draw in the Round of 16. Uruguay and Argentina had other ideas. So they finished where most people thought they would.

Now What?  Aguirre has already quit. Despite being supplanted by the United States as the big boy in North America (that’s gotta rankle), Mexico is the side with the international pedigree. But they have yet to get past the Round of 16 except on home soil. If they really want to contend for international hardware then they are going to have to come up with a little more of a refined and expansive attacking approach. I have no idea who they are going to get to do it.

South Africa Match Observations: Round Of 16, Part II

Some random observations after the First Knockout Round:

Germany 4-1 England: Despite the lack of veteran star-quality players Germany has made the free-flowing, inventive attack work for them for over six years; this game was no different. Central attacking midfielder Mesut Oezil has been the creative focal point for the Germans all tournament long and is a star in the making, with his ability to make something happen from all over the pitch, not just the center. As a result Germany was getting forward effectively on the flanks (they always do). Despite having Jermaine Defoe and James Milner on the right side, England was not making effective use of the wings in attack, where they instead chose to try to get forward with Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard, who were getting cut off by he German midfield.

Of course the one star quality veteran Germany has, goal poacher Miroslav Klose, gets on the end of a Route One pass straight down the middle from his own goalkeeper to get behind John Terry and Matthew Upson and one-time it past David James. Germany continued to open things up, making good use of angles and runs against the England offside trap to get into the box and get quality shots on goal (James came up huge on several occasions). Case in point: Germany’s second goal, when Lukas Podolski was the direct beneficiary of sublime one-touch passing through angles and space to finish a Thomas Mueller pass from the right. Of course what was England’s response? Long shots from deep outside the penalty area because they couldn’t effectively get their attack in the penalty area or get service to the front men (specifically Wayne Rooney, who just couldn’t get on the end of any service and finish off any shots all tournament long). Upson gets on the end of a late lovely ball by Gerrard on a corner to head one home. England surely got screwed one minute later (the replay proved it) when an obvious Frank Lampard long range deft lob made it over the German keeper, bounced off the cross bar and was clearly two feet over the line, but the referee denied them the tying goal. Nonetheless, England got motivated, stopped playing slow and ponderous football, and began to play with confidence, and the match became a war of attrition. You just kind of knew that with England sending numbers forward trying to score that it would leave the back vulnerable to a German counterattack. In the 66th minute Germany countered after an England set piece that Mueller finished (with Oezel at the critical center of it of course). After that Germany just picked England apart. At the end of the day, no matter how little we think of their talent, Germany just knows how to get results on football’s biggest stage. Apparently Fabio Capello has reached his glass ceiling; if he was as good as we thought he was supposed to be, then why did Sven Goran Eriksson – whom nobody liked – take them at least to the quarterfinals twice?

Argentina 3-1 Mexico: Two teams that use a 4-3-3 formation, with three front players (although Mexico’s attack was a little more direct). So Argentina was going to have to expend resources they normally would have used going forward to have to account for the Mexican attack. A couple of long-range shots from Mexico almost found the goalkeeper asleep. Argentina’s patient buildup finally leads to a goal when magical talisman Lionel Messi gets through the Mexican defense in the center and gets the ball on the head of Carlos Tevez in an obvious offside position by at least 5 yards.

After that Mexico began to lose their composure and unravel– and mostly their shape in the back as Gonzalo Higuain took advantage of a mistake by Ricardo Osorio to finish off Argentina’s second goal in the 31st minute. Mexico mostly created their own problems by giving away the ball in the back. For all the attention given to Messi it creates space and scoring opportunities for Tevez and Higuain – who take clear advantage of it — so it isn’t as if Messi is having a bad tournament even though he hasn’t scored up to this point. Still, you feel it coming. All the problems of qualifying for Argentina are clearly gone; they are playing a very complete and united game of football. With all the lack of concentration and organization by Mexico it became clinical for Argentina, with Tevez scoring on a lethal lazar shot from in front of the penalty area. A more frenetic pace in attack by Mexico results in Javier Hernandez getting through the defender in the center on a beautiful first touch to twirl around and rifle a shot past the Argentine keeper to finally get Mexico on the board. But it was too little too late. Dominating and complete performance by the Albiceleste, who will have an entertaining match with Germany in the quarterfinals. As usual, Mexico reaches that glass ceiling and crashes out in the Round of 16.


South Africa 2010 Match Observations: Group A

Some random observations after the third group fixtures:

France 1-2 South Africa: Both teams start needing a win, a lot of goals, and help in the other Group A fixture. While France controlled possession early, South Africa scored first on a corner. French goalie Hugo Lloris attempted to punch out the corner, but took a bad angle and the ball sailed over him to Bongani Khumalo for the wide open header. The goal energized Bafana Bafana and they created more pressure on Lloris. It got worse for Les Bleus when Younn Gourcuff received a red card for a high elbow to MacBeth Sibaya’s face as both went for a header in the French box. South Africa took over the game at this point. Tshabalala has a cross from the left wing blocked, but got the rebound and put it into the goalie box where Katlego Mphela muscled around a defender and knocked it in the back of the net. The French defenders looked clumsy and lazy. Raymond Domenech has lost this team. Mphela nearly had 4 more goals, hitting the post on one and forcing Lloris to make good saves on two others. Lacking any offense whatsoever, Domenech brought on Thierry Henry finally in the second half. South Africa pushed everyone up on offense looking for the goals that may get them a shot at advancement and Les Bleus finally showed some spirit and start counterattacking effectively. France finally managed a goal on a Franck Ribery cross inside the box to Florent Malouda with the goalie challenging Ribery.  France’s first goal in this Cup came with 20 minutes left in their last game. The South African defense did not collapse well on the play after France broke an offside trap. While South Africa should be proud about the win over a traditional power, they will be a bit disappointed that they couldn’t get the additional goals necessary for advancement. France was an utter disappointment and finishing last in the group was appropriate to their sorry play. Ireland is probably celebrating the French elimination after the French handball that led to the Irish elimination in qualifying. After one of the poorer coaching jobs, Domenech proved to be classless as well by refusing to shake the hand of South African manager Carlos Alberto Parreira after the game.

Mexico 0-1 Uruguay: Both teams came into the game likely to advance, however, the second seed from the group will probably face Argentina in round 2, so each had motivation to win in order to avoid that fate. Uruguay got the first real chance when Luis Suarez ran onto a pass behind the Mexican defense and chipped over the diving goalie, but it was just wide. Mexico’s first good opportunity came on a 35-yard blast from Andres Guardado that hit the crossbar and deflected almost straight down. Another inch or so lower and it would have been a goal. Both teams played cautiously in the first half, neither wanting to concede a goal, and the game was largely being played in the middle third. Just before halftime, a Uruguayan quick counterattack found Diego Forlan on the right flank and he  delivered an excellent cross to Suarez for a header on the far post for the first and ultimately only goal of the game. Uruguay nearly scored again on a header in the box off a free kick on which Mexican goalie Oscar Perez made a brilliant diving save. Mexico’s Francisco Rodriguez should have scored on a header in the box, but it went just wide. Uruguay’s defense kept Mexico from developing any kind of attack into the box up to that point. Mexico controlled possession as the second half progressed while Uruguay dropped back into a defensive shell to protect its lead. Nevertheless, Mexico played with no sense of urgency, no doubt realizing that they would advance even with a loss as long as they did not lose big. Both teams do advance to the second round, but the defensive mindset in a game where neither team had much reason to take chances made this largely a dull game.