While the eyes of the globe were on South Africa in the opening game of the FIFA World Cup, equally as interesting was the prospect of how Mexico would fair.
Neat and tidy in possession from the start, the Mexicans replicated the composure they had shown against England at Wembley last month. Their fluid and adventurous formation that saw three of the four defenders regularly push forward, was attractive to watch with all of the players seemingly comfortable playing in the complex setup.
Unfortunately, as was the case against England, for all of Mexico’s technical ability on the ball they lack the cutting edge and thrust in the final third to turn their control of the game into goals. The three Mexican forwards, Giovani Dos Santos, Carlos Vela and Guillermo Franco, are all very capable footballers but none of them can claim to be top class goal scorers – and that’s what ultimately this talented side lacks.
Ex-West Ham forward Franco will feel especially culpable after spurning two clear chances. After playing out much of the game without finding the net, coach Javier Aguirre wasn’t afraid to substitute his strikers and it will be fascinating to see whether the same trio are entrusted with a starting place against France.
Another trait to the Mexican game is their high line and forward-thinking defenders. As a result, Aguirre’s side leave plenty of spaces in behind (illustrated by South Africa’s goal). But because the North American’s – not in a dissimilar fashion to Barcelona – hold the majority of the possession, they gamble on holding the football as their way of keeping the opposition out of the game.
Of course the opening day belonged to South Africa and Bafana Bafana seemed to grow in confidence as the Mexicans failed to stamp their authority on proceedings. It’s perhaps for the benefit of the tournament as a whole that the hosts got off to a decent start – even if it was at the expense of Mexico.
With Group A tightly poised, following France’s dull 0-0 draw with Uruguay, Mexico will need to improve their conversion rate if they are to fulfil their potential in this World Cup.