Possible Issues Mexico Could Face in the Knockout Stage

The Mexican national team are currently on a fantastic roll with a team best, and current world best, 22-game unbeaten streak. Their last defeat came on June 19th of last year against Ecuador in the last game of their Copa America group stage. Last night, El Tri drew 1-1 against Venezuela to win Group C. While they are on a great run of form, if they hope to make a run at the Copa America Centenario, head coach Juan Carlos Osorio must make some changes.

Osorio Must Not Outthink Himself

Juan Carlos Osorio has been very firm in his belief of rotating players and formation in the hopes of taking advantage of the weak spots of the opposition. In the group stage this has been no different, as 21 out of the 23 men on the roster have seen playing time so far in this Copa America. Only Hector Moreno and Hector Herrera have started and played in all three games.

In the last match against Venezuela, Osorio made nine changes from the starting lineup that played against Jamaica. He also switched up his formation, going with a 3-4-3, a 3-2-4-1, and a 4-3-3 during different times. He’s a student of the game and will no doubt be studying as much as possible of Mexico’s quarterfinal opponent, whether it’s Chile or Panama.

What Osorio can’t get caught doing, though, is get too caught up in over-tinkering and completely lose the plot. What should give fans hope is that he’s made clear what the spine of the team consists of Hector Moreno, Rafael Marquez, Andres Guardado, Hector Herrera, Miguel Layun, and Javier Chicharito Hernandez. Where the changes will happen is with the remaining of the squad and what options he sees fit to attack the opposing team.

Defending Set Pieces

Before the tournament, Mexico were on a shutout streak that extended over 800 minutes. While they’ve only allowed two goals in the tournament, both have come off of set pieces. This has been something that Mexico has historically struggled with in the past but it is worrisome that a simple foul in their own half could lead to a potential goal.

Making the Most of Their Chances

In all three of Mexico’s games, El Tri always emerged the better of the two teams over the full 90 minutes. However, they’ve lacked the ability to make better use of their possession and chances. Considering the opponent, Mexico’s best soccer under Osorio was the first half against Uruguay. They attacked with pace, purpose, and an idea of what the collective wanted to do. They controlled the ball in Uruguay’s half and moved the ball around in the hopes of creating the angles and gaps to get behind the defense. Yet they were only able to come away with a 1-0 lead, and in reality the best chance of that half was Uruguay’s when Edinson Cavani missed a one-on-one with the keeper.

Similarly, against Jamaica, it was the Reggae Boyz who were able to get behind a very high defensive line of Mexico and get El Tri on the counter. Again, if it wasn’t for some poor finishing, Jamaica could’ve changed the game. Lastly, while Venezuela didn’t create such clear cut chances like their counterparts, Mexico struggled to challenge their keeper into enough saves. So while Mexico do have a lot of the ball during matches, they must do better to create more clear cut chances and the likes of Chicharito must do better to make the most of those chances.

BONUS: Rafael Marquez against Father Time

While in the two games he’s played so far Rafael Marquez has looked just short of world class, the former Barcelona defender is still 37. What could be even more impressive is the fact of how long he’s played in those matches. Both games he went the full 90 and didn’t look like anything of the player who was pulled at halftime against Canada for picking up a light knock on the demanding turf field.

Since he sat out Monday’s game, Marquez will have nine days of rest between the last time he played. The 37-year-old carries a lot of the responsibility on the field, not only as the captain but also through his dictation of the game with his talk and passing. The question is, as the tournament goes on, whether he will still have legs fresh enough to do what’s expected ofhim, or if his body will not recover in time. At any moment his body could remember that it’s 37, and no matter how great a legend he has become, even he can’t beat Father Time.