Although very little was expected of the Mexican side, they emerged from Group A as one of the stand-out performers having missed out on top spot due to an inferior goal-difference, they do however finish with just 1 goal conceded in three games. Despite expectations being low, Mexico have progressed to the second round for a 6th consecutive World Cup, a record matched only by giants of the game – Brazil & Germany.
Mexico’s next World Cup game will be against European giants, Netherlands, who seem to be in free scoring mode. Given the attacking outlets the Dutch have, it will be the biggest test for Mexico’s thus far solid defence. A possible victory in that game and the Mexicans can realistically dream of a semi-final berth with Costa Rica/Greece winnable opponents.
This Mexican side is certainly one of the weakest of recent memories. They struggled in qualifying and got through to this stage only due to USA’s late late victory over Panama in what was a meaningless game for the former. They do however now find themselves in the 2nd round, and they need some key individuals to ensure it doesn’t stop here.
The man between the posts
Guillermo Ochoa, who is a free agent, has done no harm to his reputation as he seeks a new club. Although he did a good job against Cameroon, his performance against Brazil was quite something else. Save after save, some from shots that looked destined for the goal Ochoa kept Mexico in the game, earning a 0-0 draw. It would be unfair to say he did so single-handedly, obviously helped by an incredible defence ahead of him.
But for a team like Mexico which, with all due respect, is going to be second-best for most games they are likely to participate in, their defence will come under constant pressure, it will thus be vital for their keeper to be at the top of his game. It’s obviously hard to ‘analyse’ the goalkeeper’s role, but Ochoa certainly is someone who has all the ingredients – command of his area, ability to pull of point blank saves, and his organisation of the defence is helped with Rafael Marquez right ahead of him. He nearly went the entire group stage without conceding, until that goal by Croatia ofcourse.
Organisation aficionado, Rafael Marquez
Speaking of Rafael Marquez, the Mexican captain has also been a crucial player in ensuring the defence remain at the top of their game. Marquez, who is the first player to captain his nation at four different World Cups, is the most experienced player in the squad having played at the highest level for both club & country.
The 35-year-old is positioned as the deepest of a three man midfield has the task of being the last line of defence, providing cover to the other two centre-backs as they move up to press in the defensive third. Although he was a player earlier in his career who was one to advance ahead while defending, as his career has wore on he has grown into a more defensive centre-back.
Mexico’s success has been their 3 man central defensive system, orchestrated by Rafael Marquez, they’ll need their captain to first get a result against the Dutch and beyond. Just one goal conceded against Neymar, Mario Mandzukic & Samuel Eto’o is no easy task, full credit thus to Ochoa, Marquez & the Mexican defence.
Man for important moments, Oribe Peralta
Despite all the defensive organisation, Mexico still need an attacker to lead the way on the other end. Coming into the tournament, questions were raised as to whether the usually reliable Chicharito deserves a starting place. As we’ve seen, the United man hasn’t got his place in the side but instead Oribe Peralta find himself shouldering responsibility.
Although his influence and impact hasn’t been as vast as Mexicans may have expected, Peralta is the type of attacker you’d want in your side going into pressure knock-out situations. His natural style to play off the shoulders of the last defenders make him the prime target for the Mexican side, and a nuisance for the opposition to deal with his sheer presence.
Personally, i’m not overly confident with the midfield in terms of creativity, but Mexico do utilise the wings to perfection with advancing full-backs. The service they’re able to provide will be vital for Peralta’s own success. Dos Santos will be positioned just slightly deeper of Peralta, with the Villarreal man also required to create for the striker.
They’ve had their backs against the wall throughout the tournament and emerged with 7 points, their next round game works in their favour with the Dutch the superior time. There will be restrained expectations again, but that Mexican defence are certainly capable of getting a result or two, led by Ochoa & Marquez.