The Mexican National Soccer Team advanced to the semifinals in the very last minutes of extra time on Sunday against Costa Rica. Striker Oribe Peralta received a controversial penalty kick when Paul Aguilar centered a ball into the 18-yard box and Costa Rican defender Miller appeared to foul Peralta. The penalty kick was taken by Captain Andres Guardado and secured El Tri a ticket to Atlanta to face Panama.
The game was not as boring or as disappointing as the last matches against Guatemala and Trinidad & Tobago but there were frustrating moments. A lack of finishing in the box and stalling with changes were just some of the crucial aspects to take from this game. Here’s what to expect for the match against Panama on Wednesday:
1. Jose “Tecatito” Coronoa deserves a starting position.
Carlos Vela and Oribe Peralta are great strikers. However, during the course of this tournament, they have lacked the real power to take on the defenders one and one and really attempt to be individual players when it is needed. They focused mainly on trying to find another teammate that is more open they are rather than try be a little more improvisation up front. There have been great goals from both against Cuba and Trinidad & Tobago but against Costa Rica, the flair was not quite there from either of them. When “Tecatito” came in, there was flair that has not been seen since Gio Dos Santos’ own beginnings at El Tri. There was a willingness to take on the challenge and try the absolute best to get the ball in the goal. There were more individual chances from the Mexican side once “Tecatito” went in compared to all their games combined. He at least deserves to start the game and see how he does the first half or at least be given more minutes during the game against Panama.
2. Andres Guardado is and deserves to be Captain.
Aside from Tecatito, Guardado was clearly the man of the match for this game. Whether it be from the inspiration that the newspaper scandal influenced, Guardado came out that day to play and play as best to his potential. And succeeded. His stamina never gave up and his agility to come back down and defend even when he had just finished taking on towards Costa Rica’s goal never stopped. Even despite playing the full 90 minutes, the extra time did not seem to phase him. He continued searching for the ball. His possession and passes were secure. It only seemed fit that he was allowed to take the penalty and as captain, secure his team’s chances of advancing. Great talent should only continue to shine from the Mexican midfielder.
3. Alanis replacing Corona is risky but must step up to the plate.
Yasser Corona went on Twitter shortly following the game to announce that his ruptured meniscus would leave him out for the remainder of the tournament. Mexican team officials shortly announced afterward that Oswaldo Alanis would be taking Corona’s spot. Panama has not shown considerable strong attacking from its strikers but they should not be underestimated and with Alanis’ lack of playing time, this could be problematic. Corona’s style of defending was a bit loose and at times, the pace he showed was not to the highest caliber resulting in a few too many fouls from his part. Alanis should try to avoid committing any fouls and should always be on his toes to not avoid getting outrun.
4. Ochoa’s confidence in the goal might be challenged.
Just like Alanis and the rest of the Mexican defense, Ochoa should not underestimate the ability of Panama’s striker. The history of the Trinidad & Tobago should prove that case. Prior to the Costa Rica game, Ochoa made the assertive statement that it was not the defense’s fault that Trinidad and Tobago was able to score four goals on them in such a short amount of time. He still has confidence on his defensive line and that is crucial going into this semifinal game. His talent has not quite been tested and to ensure not one ball slips by, he must continue having that confidence as well as directing his back players.
5. Herrera should trust his instinct and make changes when he sees problems.
One of the most central concerns about Mexico’s playing is Herrera’s reluctance to make changes when players begin to struggle on the field. The most notable has been Hector Herrera getting significant playing time despite the lack of actually result. His passes have been off and his physical conditioning has appeared off during a majority of this tournament. When he was finally taken out towards the end of the game against Costa Rica, there was a definite difference in the level of playing. The same when Vela was subbed out for “Tecatito.” Herrera claims the substitutions were technical decisions and rightfully so. But these technical decisions must be made sooner so that he does not prolong the lack of goals to continue for any longer.