In a battle to see who would top Group C, Mexico and Venezuela delivered a barn burner that featured two world class goals which saw the teams end on level terms.
Customary to the way Juan Carlos Osorio has done things for Mexico during his tenure, he would again change both his starting XI and formation for Mexico. Instead of going with a 3-4-3 that he used during his first two matches, he would go to a 4-3-3 this match and utilize Paul Aguilar and Jorge Torres-Nilo, his two outside backs who hadn’t made an appearance yet during the tournament. In goal he used Jesus Corona, which means he used each of his three keepers in the three group games. Hirving Lozano also saw his first start of the tournament after having some great showings off the bench. Lastly, Oribe Peralta was the man to start up top instead of Javier Chicharito Hernandez.
The game started at a high pace with both teams going at each other with the hopes of taking the win and at the same time avoiding a possible matchup with Argentina in the quarterfinals. It was El Vinotinto who struck first off a set piece with the ball played into the box, and a header back into the mix saw Jose Velazquez smash home the ball with an amazing volley. Like in their first two group games, Venezuela would sit back and absorb pressure and look to break on the counter. For Mexico this was just the second goal they’ve conceded under Osorio, and like the first goal which came against Uruguay, it resulted from a set piece.
Mexico did have a legitimate penalty call turned down after Hector Moreno’s PK went off the hand of a Venezuelan defender, however no call was made. Another aspect of the game was the poor field conditions as the makeshift grass saw the ball have an awkward bounce and led to Javier Aquino needing to be pulled 17 minutes into the match after a non-contact injury. For Mexico, they were able to bring in Jesus Corona in his place and demonstrate the depth they have in the wings. Regardless, Mexico entered the half down a goal, the first time they had trailed at the midway mark since September in a friendly against Trinidad and Tobago.
Osorio would make changes throughout the half, first by bringing in Miguel Layun for Torres-Nilo; this made Mexico much more aggressive. Layun is naturally a more attacking-minded player in that position than Torres-Nilo, a far more defensive player. The last change was bringing in Chicharito for Jesus Molina while having Mexico play a very aggressive 4-4-2, which would change to a 4-2-4 as Mexico attacked.
Finally, after a few close chances, it was a little bit of magic from Corona as he took the ball and sliced and diced his way past five defenders to smash the ball home and into the net. While that goal tied the match, it almost felt like a go ahead goal for Mexico because of the importance of finishing first. The goal would lift the 67 thousand plus fans into a frenzy and give Mexico a final push to look for a winner.
At the end, the game ended at 1-1 and saw Mexico finish first on goal differential. Venezuela for their part have been a wonderful story thus far. After only picking up one point in their first six matches of World Cup qualifying, they’ve won two games and drawn another in this Copa America and will now look to keep the magical run going as they face Argentina in the quarterfinals on Saturday.
For Mexico, the draw ends their 11 game winning streak but pushes their unbeaten run to a new Mexican record 22 games. They will face the winner of Panama vs Chile on Saturday.