Questions that face Mexico ahead of its next two matches
National teams preparing for the 2018 FIFA World Cup will get a chance to see where their respective squads stand Thursday. A few tournament favorites will face-off against in the coming days as Germany and Brazil do next Tuesday March 27.
Those players who might be left off their national team's final 23 will be able to demonstrate why they deserve one of the spots to Russia. One of those teams is Mexico. El Tri is looking to advance past the round of 16, something that it has not done since they hosted the tournament in 1986. Juan Carlos Osorio has a few players who want to note why they deserve to be one of the 23 players who should be on the final roster, and others who believe they should be a starter for the team.
We will examine here what are some of the areas to keep a focus on when El Tri plays Iceland Friday, March 23 at 7:30 PM (PT) and Croatia, Tuesday, March 27 at 7:00 PM (PT).
The Attacking Wings
Who will be starting alongside Chicharito in Russia? That is what has been on Manager Osorio’s mind as the tournament inches closer. Several players have proven to be preferred players for the manager, such as Carlos Vela. The player’s recent move to MLS had to leave Osorio wondering where Vela’s mind was, but his play continues to be of quality as Vela demonstrated in his two matches with LAFC. Vela will want to let Osorio know why he should be the first choice on the wing ahead of Jesus “Tecatito” Corona, Hirving Lozano, his close friend Giovani Dos Santos, and several of the other Mexican wing players.
Giovani Dos Santos’ injury is bad luck for the player as he has quickly losing faith with fans and has likely lost his starting role for El Tri. On Gio’s behalf, however, Osorio has utilized Dos Santos in positions that do not best suit him. He has played him below the three attacking players. When Giovani has clearly not strived in that role Tecatito has also had trouble as he has missed opportunities with the national team due to personal reasons, and he has also not been given much appearances for his club as well. With Lozano continuing to score for PSV, he has gained the support of fans and will see minutes in Russia, either off the bench or as a starter.
Chicharito will likely maintain his starting position as Raul Jimenez has struggled to play with Benefica, and his experience is valued by Osorio. However, Jimenez has had bright moments with El Tri, so Hernandez should not be feeling too comfortable with the talent the Mexican squad has on the bench.
Other areas to look for in the attack are players like Rodolfo Pizarro and Marco Fabian to show why they should not be cut from the final roster. Pizarro is one of the brightest players in Liga MX, and Fabian was out for a substantial amount of time with both club and the national team due to injury. They will likely both get minutes in the following matches.
Who is El Tri’s Defensive Mid?
The Mexican team has several players they have given minutes to for this position. Jesus Molina was the last player given the responsibility to play as the holding midfielder. Molina did play well in against Bosnia-Herzegovina. However, he did not get to play together with Andres Guardado and Hector Herrera, who will likely be the two other midfielders in the 4-3-3 formation Juan Carlos Osorio utilizes with Mexico. Jonathan Dos Santos is another player who Osorio used in several key moments for El Tri, and his play with El Tri has not been disappointing. Jonathan is a player who passes the ball quickly, but I am not sure if he would be best utilized at defensive mid for Mexico. The younger Dos Santos will also not be able to showcase his abilities to Osorio as he picked up a hamstring injury on Friday for Galaxy. Oswaldo Alanis has been called to replace Jonathan for the next two matches.
The national team has also played Diego Reyes at the position with bad results, and Edson Alvarez has also been given time there as well. Osorio will have to make his mind if he chooses to continue rotating players or decides to choose from one of the options he has.
Other midfielders who will want to earn a spot for the team will be Jurgen Damm, Omar Govea, and Jonathan Gonzalez to name a few. Damm and Javier Aquino were two other players who will miss the first game due to injury, but will be able to play in Mexico’s second friendly. Osorio will have to be creative rotating minutes to all the players for him to get a chance to see who will give El Tri the best chance in Russia.
Who starts next to Hector Moreno?
Hector Moreno is one of Mexico’s best defenders in the history of the national team and El Tri still continues its search for a player for him to partner with. Osorio has used Hugo Ayala in the previous two matches and he displayed patience and how he is also a threat in the air, scoring the winning goal against Bosnia-Herzegovina. Nestor Araujo, Diego Reyes, and Edson Alvarez are also options who have received much playing time and are options for the manager. Mexico has also deployed a three central defenders with Carlos Salcedo, Hector Moreno, and Hugo Ayala, while having Miguel Layun and Jesus Gallardo fly along the wings.
Osorio is known for his rotation changes, but as the World Cup begins to get closer, pressure will be on the manager from fans, the media, and perhaps the federation, to learn who has earned their spot in the XI for El Tri.