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.