Mexico asserted their position as a CONCACAF powerhouse with a commanding 6-0 victory against Cuba. A hat trick from Oribe Peralta and individual goals from Gio Dos Santos, Vela and Guardado helped ensure El Triis going to be fine without an injured Chicharito playing his usual striking position up top. But there are important things to note for the upcoming match the Aztecs will be playing against Guatemala on Sunday:
1. Jonathan Dos Santos deserves and should continue getting more playing time.
Jose “Gallito” Vazquez’s sudden injury during warm-ups before the game was a blessing in disguise. By shifting the middle around to have Jonathan in the center position, the young Villarreal player was able to show us just how advanced his skill of play has become. Every touch was made calmly and his passes were most often secured and completed. He took a few attempts on goal and his relaxed demeanor in the middle reminded some of a young Cuahtehmoc Blanco. His speed was used wisely in open spaces and with Guatemala being a bit more competitive than Cuba, his potential should be taken into consideration and he should be given at least a full half of playing time, if not, the whole game.
2. Mexico’s defense needs to be prepared for counter attacks.
The game against Cuba proved to be one-sided. Not much came from the Cuban strikers but that will most likely be the only chance Mexico has to let their defense relax in this group stage. Guatemala has never been at quite the same level Mexico is but whenever the two face each other, Guatemala comes out with a strong counter attack, able to have their players show up at the right place in the right time. Mexico’s defense will have to practice guarding a man at all times, especially as the tournament progresses in anticipation for facing the United States. Their friendlies leading up to the tournament showed that at times they are reluctant to pay attention to men without the ball that has cost them a few goals, particularly when they faced Costa Rica.
3. Avoid injuries at all cost.
As the game against Honduras proved, the level of physical competition increases whenever Mexico faces certain teams. The same could be said with Guatemala. If Mexico wishes to avoid any injuries from some of their crucial players, they will take into consideration the style of play that comes out of certain teams. This is even more accurate if Mexico starts off strong and scores a few goals early in the first half the way they did against Cuba. El Tri cannot afford to lose any more of its players.
4. A strong middle will secure everything.
Of the few times that Cuba actually got to El Tri’s side was a result of a lack of control in the middle. This was seen in both friendlies against Costa Rica and Honduras when Herrera was experimenting with a 4-4-2 formation. As the competition continues and the level of play increasing with each stage leading up to the final, Mexico will have to ensure that their middle players are strong and secure. Hector Herrera has a few bad passes during the game and although Rios is unlikely to take “Gallito’s” spot permanently during the tournament, subs and starters alike must avoid any mistakes down the middle. Layun places well on the side and Jonathan has proved he’s a strong contender in the center of the field. The middle needs to keep that up during the next couple of games.
5. Early goals will ensure confidence and assert Mexico’s dominance.
Mexico’s early goals during the game of Cuba not only gave them high hopes, but also shut down many critics that were weary of Mexico’s power and how effective it would be during the tournament. Granted, a victory against Cuba was expected but the confidence that the first goals instilled in the Aztecs also allowed for a style of play that we had not seen since the World Cup. It was calm, relaxed, tactical and intelligent. Frankly, the level of playing will not be that challenging if Mexico allows themselves to continue scoring goals and continues to assert their dominance through their confidence. If they continue on this way, their (somewhat) expected match-up against the United States in the possible Gold Cup final will prove to be challenging but very doable after practicing their skills in these preliminary matches.