Thursday 22 June 2017, 08:25

Mexico: Five areas for improvement

  • *El Tri*** lead Group A on goals scored**

  • A draw from their final game will take them through

  • That match is against hosts Russia in Kazan on Saturday By Martin Langer with Mexico

The numbers do not lie: top of Group A, Mexico need just a point from their final match against hosts Russia to advance to the semi-finals of the FIFA Confederations Cup Russia 2017.

There are occasions, however, when the stats do not tell the whole story, a point underlined by analysis of Mexico’s performances at the tournament so far.

In their second outing of the competition, El Tri had to work far harder than they would have imagined to beat New Zealand, who lie 78 places below them in the FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking. Having trailed the All Whites at half-time, the Mexicans will need to make improvements if they are to stay in contention for the title. spoke to their coach and players about how they can raise their game.

1 Field the strongest side and use a system familiar to the players Following the draw with Portugal, Juan Carlos Osorio chose to make eight changes to his side for the game in Sochi. He also decided to switch from a 4-3-3 formation to 3-2-2-3. His charges struggled in the first half and it was not until the second that he was able to make the necessary adjustments. There will be no such margin for error against Russia, who beat the Kiwis in their opening match.

*“The idea was to use some fresh legs and I think we controlled them. We competed very well against them and got the win in the end.”* Mexico coach Juan Carlos Osorio

2 Stay grounded The players would argue otherwise, but it is not often that you see a team come out in such a relaxed frame of mind against supposedly inferior opposition. Mexico looked less than focused from the kick-off and only reacted once they fell behind.

*“I don’t think we were overly confident, but there’s no doubt that they made life difficult for us with their aggressive, long-ball attacking game.”* Mexico defender Oswaldo Alanis

3 Concentrate for the entire 90 minutes Both Portugal’s opening goal and New Zealand’s strike can be put down to defensive errors, while slack finishing made El Tri’s defeat of the All Whites far tenser it should have been. Mexico cannot afford to switch off and gift opportunities to their opponents.

*“We need to play with more intensity from the start. We know that a draw will take us through but we have to go for the win. We can’t settle for a draw and we need to be aware that it’s going to be a very tough game.”* Mexico forward Raul Jimenez

4 Have a clear plan Since taking on the Tri job, Osorio has shown an ability to adapt Mexico’s gameplan and nullify their rivals. His plans for New Zealand backfired, however. Though he was well aware of the All Whites’ potent aerial threat, the Oceania side were still able to wreak havoc in the air. Mexico also seemed to be taken by surprise by their opponents’ high-intensity pressing game and struggled to impose themselves.

*“Russia are going to be a different proposition. They like to keep the ball and bring it out of defence. We’ll try to counter their strengths and exploit their weaknesses, but we need to be focused.”* Mexico midfielder Juergen Damm

5 Maintain self-belief Not so much an area for improvement as an attribute Mexico need to keep nurturing. In both their games so far, they have come back to get the results they needed. That self-confidence will be vital for a high-pressure match where the home fans will also be a factor.

*“This team knows to respond when things go against them. We’re always going to play good games and bad games, like the first half today, but we need to keep our confidence levels up and stick to our plans.” * Mexico defender Nestor Araujo