Eric Gomez: Mexico's bittersweet draw against South Korea yields more positives than negatives

Despite El Tri's unexpected stumble out of the gate in London 2012, the Mexicans still find themselves handling their own destiny and with time to figure out some burning issues.
Ideally, Mexico's CONCACAF and Toulon form would have resurfaced at St. James' Park this Thursday afternoon in its Olympic opener, instead of the drab play witnessed in its last few friendlies.

However, the performance turned in by El Tri was a strange mixture of both, with flashes of brilliance equally coupled with a few shocking displays that could have easily lead to a tragic result if faced with a more clinical rival.

The South Koreans worked on the Mexican side of the pitch unmolested for big stretches of play, and if not for Jose de Jesus Corona's timely saves as well as a few key misses from the Asian strikers, we most definitely would not be talking about a draw at this point in time.

Coach Luis Fernando Tena's decision to bench Giovani dos Santos turned out to be the right one despite the final result. While Mexico's attack was listless with Oribe Peralta and Marco Fabian as the initial attacking pair, Giovani's entrance from the bench in the second half slowly breathed life into El Tri's attack and gave the Tottenham player increased confidence in tough situations.

Late misses from Dos Santos and Raul Jimenez can also give Mexican fans some spilled milk to cry about, but the truth of the matter is those opportunities were impossible to come by prior to both players being sent out on the pitch.

While some pundits already condemn Tena's choice to leave Dos Santos out of the starting XI considering the impact he had on the game coming on a sub, there's nothing to suggest that would have been the case if he had been given the chance to play from the first minute.

The winger was benched on recent form and will now most likely win a spot in the starting lineup against Gabon based on his most recent form against South Korea. And truthfully, pinning all of Mexico's hopes in this competition on a player who wasn't even present for the team's best run of form months before is unfair, but it remains an important part of the formula for success.

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The aforementioned Peralta and Fabian also need to step up. Hector Herrera, Mexico's do-it-all defensive midfielder, was MIA for large stretches of time in Newcastle. Commonly, even the most casual fan can deduce that if the best part of your team was in defense, you were most likely dominated.

Meanwhile, Mexico can't make the same mistake it made tactically against South Korea. By overlooking the Asians to a point, Mexico allowed control of the match to pass to the other squad, which did exactly what El Tri had been applauded massively for doing in previous matches: pressure players on the ball, push your lines forward no matter what and make possession count by creating chances.

Against Gabon, a similar blunder could mean an early exit from the tournament. Traditionally, Mexico struggles against South Korea, and that norm continued on Thursday. Mexico also finds difficulty in African opponents, an issue which Tena and his team will have to solve before the all-important second match.

With the first match here and gone and a somewhat positive result stemming from it despite an underwhelming performance, Mexico should find some solace in knowing that it is firmly in the driver's seat going forward and with some time to fix its mistakes.

And yes, hopefully with Giovani dos Santos firmly in place as a starter.