As the group stages in the Confederations Cup are coming to a close, the Mexico vs Japan match was a game for both teams to go out with honor and pride. Both teams had high expectations to perform well in this tournament; however, while Japan may have impressed (as they did against Italy), Mexico did not.
Today’s Mexico vs Japan encounter showed flashes of brilliance from both teams. While Japan controlled the first half, Mexico came into the second half as the dominant side up until the last ten minutes. During the first half, however, Japan’s defense and midfield was held together greatly. As a result, Mexico’s attacks were feeble and ineffective. Along with Japan’s defensive unity in the first half, the ‘Blue Samurai’s’ also created intricate plays that nearly resulted in goals. Many of Mexico’s supporters at the end of the first half were expecting the same uninspiring soccer to resume into the second half.
Instead, Mexico came into the second half looking like a completely different team. It was a Mexico that was non-existent for the past year. Passes were meaningful, crosses were put into dangerous areas, movement was seen everywhere; but most importantly, there was confidence with many plays created. It’s very important that Chepo’s team got the win today, because they will need something in the coming months — confidence. Loads of it, too. If Chepo will want to continue coaching Mexico, here are some helpful suggestions for him to consider.
Too many times this year, Chepo would alternate the center-defensive midfielders. Chepo seems to enjoy alternating Torrado, Zavala, Salcido, and Herrera in the center (something that does not help Mexico’s chemistry in all honesty). One thing he must do from now on, however, is to play Zavala every game. Simple as that. Jesús Eduardo Zavala is great in his position and very often tracks back as well in order to help his defense. He’s great in the air, times his tackles very well, and is becoming more calm on the ball when under pressure. Instead of pairing him up with Torrado, Herrera would be a more effective partner in the middle. Herrera’s pace and stamina combined with Zavala’s intelligence on the ball can offer up a plethora of opportunities down the middle of the park.
Two Consistent Wingers
Too often this year, we have either seen Guardado play ineffective on his wing while Barrera plays great on his wing and so on and so forth. This needs to stop. Of course this is something Chepo cannot control, as it is the players who perform on the field; however, the selection of who starts on either wing is just as important. For example, in today’s match, Mexico vs. Japan, Gio was playing on the right wing while Guardado was on the left. Although Gio’s preferred position is to be deployed down the middle as a central attacking midfielder, his runs down the right wing today were causing problems for the Japanese defenders. Dangerous runs down the wings are what has made Mexico so lethal in recent years. Crosses can be bombarded from either wing (usually Chicharito meets the cross with a header) or a run can be made into the box to create an opportunity for goal. If Chepo wants to continue to see opportunities being created on the wings, he must trust two consistent players who play these positions regularly.
With these past games in the Confederations Cup, Maza Rodriguez has been playing very poorly. Not only has he been under-performing, but Salcido as well has also been a mixed player. It seems as if Chepo has acknowledged this in today’s match versus Japan. He made changes all over the back line and started, from right back, with Mier, Reyes, Moreno, and Torres. This is encouraging news because these players all play better, more cohesive defense than previous defensive line-ups. Mier and Torres offer more of an attacking threat while not detracting from their defensive duties. Additionally, Reyes and Moreno can offer a great partnership at center-back as they have shown in today’s match. Chepo must continue to play with these four defenders as they offer solidity down the middle, they offer attacking options down the flanks, and most importantly, they all can offer a better understanding of each other altogether.
Corona has been performing great for Mexico and, on many occasions, looked to be the player who kept the team level in times of great struggle. However, today’s match does raise the question: should Ochoa be starting for Mexico once again? While he did not have much to do in today’s match, there are subtleties that distinguish him from Corona. For example, his accuracy with his passing, whether it be a long kick or long throw, is much more precise. This certainly can help a great deal with Mexico’s counter attacks. Not only that, but his precise passing can also help Mexico retain possession. The great thing with Mexico’s goalkeepers is that they’re both fantastic between the posts. If Corona seems to be slipping up, Ochoa can easily be slotted in to solve the problem. While this is not the case (Corona’s efforts have been great recently), it is worth noting Ochoa’s potential place in the starting eleven. We’ll see if Chepo continues to play Ochoa during the World Cup qualifier against Honduras in September.
As Mexico’s campaign in the Confederations Cup is over, their efforts to rebuild confidence and win important results is not over. Sure, their second half performance was better than a lot of their other games this past year; however, there is much to do over the months between now and September in order to qualify for next years World Cup. Moreover, Chepo should take these suggestions into consideration as his tenure at Mexico is on thin ice. Lets hope he does because patience is running thin within Mexico’s fan-base.