Profligacy in front of goal costs Mexico

by Matthew Wood

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.

1 Response

  1. While I think Aguirre will stick with Franco for the next match based on his experience and his ability to get into scoring positions the temptation must surely be there to start Hernández or are least give him more time to make an impact from the bench. He is their form striker based on his domestic exploits and performances for Mexico this year. He has the same number of international goals as Franco and all scored in the build up to the World Cup. Granted they have been friendlies and against generally weaker opposition but he is putting the ball in the back of the net and that is Mexico’s fundamental problem at the moment.

    It is telling that Hernández is able to retain possession and link the play with the rest of the attack. The same applies to the immobile Blanco to a lesser degree. Mexico’s problem is currently that Vela and Dos Santos are too raw and inconsistent to both start. While Dos Santos provides a direct threat via his dribbling he all too often goes on hero runs and does not release the ball quickly enough. By contrast Vela tries to pass too often, a character flaw of Arsenal players in recent times, and is less effective operating in a wider role as Mexico requires.

    I think Hernández upfront supported by Guardado and Dos Santos would have been too much for South Africa to handle and led to increased chance conversion. I was also surprised that Aguirre removed the wide threat posed by Aguilar and did not replace it with Barrera.

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