A draw against minnow Jamaica to open the Hexagonal certainly wasn't ideal, but it was far from a disaster, especially if El Tri quickly learns from its mistakes.A night that was supposed to be a routine reaffirmation that El Tri is the king of CONCACAF ended in farce with the crowd cheering the opposition and Mexico’s captain pictured raising his middle finger towards journalists.
There are two ways of analyzing and giving perspective to Mexico’s drab 0-0 draw against Jamaica on Wednesday night, without being sensationalistic.
The first is giving it a positive slant, and filing it away as the reality check El Tri, and its fans, need: a timely reminder that nothing should be taken for granted in the remaining qualifying games for Brazil 2014.
In this thought process, Mexico’s talented squad will now brush itself down, pick up a clinical away win in Honduras in March, follow it up with a comfortable victory against its chief rival the United States and continue its inevitable drive towards the World Cup.
That was the spin Javier 'Chicharito' Hernandez was keen to stress after the game to the local press.
“The result speaks for itself,” Chicharito said. “I think that Jamaica came to do its defensive job, got the point and now we have to think of the future.”
He added: “The only positive we can take is that it’s only the start and more games remain."
The Manchester United striker will now focus on his club, with an important game against Everton coming up on Sunday and then the big one against Real Madrid next Wednesday.
For others, and especially coach Jose Manuel 'Chepo' de la Torre, there will be a period of reflection on what went wrong and what to do about it. Why was goalkeeper Jesus Corona hailed as Mexico’s savior at home against a team ranked 58th in the world by FIFA? Why didn’t El Tri create more clear-cut chances?
The negative narrative of Wednesday’s draw is that it highlighted a problem Mexico has of breaking down weaker opposition that is starting to become a major cause for concern.
El Tri’s last six games have all been in Mexico or in the team’s second home, the United States. Of those games, it took 61 minutes to open the scoring against Costa Rica, over an hour against El Salvador, 78 minutes against Guyana and 68 minutes versus Denmark. In the Azteca, Jamaica and the United States have nullified Mexico’s attack.
Mexico is, on paper, probably better suited to a counterattacking style, but can’t escape CONCACAF. Teams in the region are likely to continue to employ similar tactics: remain solid, don’t get pulled out of position and try to pose a threat going forward. And who could blame them?
The solution seems to be staring Chepo in the face: Sacrifice one of the two strikers in the 4-4-2 and release Dos Santos into a free role behind a main striker.
It’s the popular choice, would provide better angles of attacks, more fluidity and suits the players that Mexico has.
But there are other options. Teams like Club America play with three at the back in the Liga MX and have success. Diego Reyes could play the role of the libero, moving forward into midfield when required. Andres Guardado started his career as a wingback and has played there this season for Valencia. Tigres’ Israel Jimenez at right wing back has the capacity to get up and down the wing, too.
The debate will go on. There will be plenty of fans discussing what Chepo should do, potential formations and who should be sacrificed.
But whatever happens, just don’t mention the elephant in the room. The one that plays for Real Sociedad.
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