The last month has seen a dearth of posts in this blog for two very simple reasons: work has been absolutely hectic and the World Cup has overtaken the little available spare time I have.
The Mexican team was eliminated in the second round of the World Cup, but I wanted to recap on its campaign in the tournament (for the full tactical analysis go here). Its preparations were the best in recent memory, doing not only the usual tour of the US against mid- to low-tier teams but also a tour of Europe, where the team lost against England and the Netherlands but beat Gambia and Italy.
As the Tricolor played the opening match against South Africa expectations were very high, but the team looked imprecise (if you could blame the ball the time was now) and lacking killer instinct in the last third of the pitch. South Africa scored a beautiful goal on the counter and Mexico had to search further, with captain Márquez saving our blushes (and our chances to qualify for the next round).
The second game, against France, was the one everybody expected the team to lose. The French team, however, hadn’t read the script and arrived tired, divided and overconfident. Mexico, having performed some changes in defense compared to the first game, looked the better team throughout, but it was the introduction of youngsters “Chicharito” Hernández and Pablo “Dinamita” Barrera that really made a difference. The first open the scoreboard and the second provoked a penalty that sealed the game as 2-0 in our favour. The victory was celebrated by the 110 million Mexicans in Mexico and the 30 million abroad, it was the main news item in domestic media and life was good.
The third game of the group stage was weird: Mexico and Uruguay could go through to the next stage with a draw, while a victory by either team would mean trouble. Both came out swinging anyway but it was Uruguay who scored the only game in the match. Mexico would meet Argentina in the second round… just like in 2006.
Expectations being enormous, it was the Mexicans who played the better football in the first 30 minutes, until a blatant offside goal gave Argentina the lead and totally crushed Tri concentration. That was obvious with the second albiceleste goal, rising from a childish error in defense. The 3rd goal for the South Americans, however, was a thing of beauty and there’s nothing the opposing fan can say about it. Mexico picked up the pieces and it was again “Chicharito”, coming as a sub, who led the Mexican charge and scored what in Spanish is called the “honourable” goal, but that was it.
Aguirre, the coach who saved the Mexican qualification campaign, will not continue at the helm of the national team, but many of the men he picked are called to become the backbone of the group that will seek to play in the next World Cup in Brazil: Ochoa, Moreno, Aguilar, Guardado, Dos Santos, Vela, Hernández, Barrera are all under 24 years old, and many are either playing in Europe or have the possibility to move here within the next 4 years. Other players who figured in the team but didn’t make the trip to South Africa are also young, so right now would be the time to find a good coach, create a proper plan and stick with it.
Regardless of what happens, this is the moment I’ll cherish until I see the guys in green, white and red sing the anthem at the World Cup again: