MEXICO CITY -- It may have been a night to celebrate and remember the national team career of Cuauhtemoc Blanco, but there was also some serious business to attend to in Mexico’s game on Wednesday against Israel, with the World Cup creeping up.
The 3-0 victory to Mexico gave the capacity crowd inside the Estadio Azteca the goals they wanted to see, even if Leon’s four players - Rafa Marquez, Jose Juan Vazquez, Luis Montes, Carlos Pena – as well as Giovani Dos Santos and Hector Moreno didn’t feature.
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Here are five takes from the game:
Another slow start
It didn’t help that 41-year-old Blanco was on the field for the first 40 minutes, but just like in the last friendly against the United States, Mexico was sluggish out the blocks and took time to get into the game.
Until Israel goalkeeper Ariel Harush made a monumental error for Mexico’s first goal, the match had some of the elements of El Tri’s awful 2013 qualification campaign about it, with the crowd starting to get restless.
The fundamental reason is that many of the starting players hadn’t played together under coach Miguel Herrera or in his system.
Unfortunately, much time to bed in is something that Mexico doesn’t have the luxury of with the World Cup two weeks away.
Layun is a key player
Harush made a mistake for Layun’s first goal and was slightly at fault for his second, but the Club America left wing back cut inside and shot with his right foot for both. The danger he creates by doing so is exactly why Herrera prefers him on the left flank.
Layun could well be one of Mexico’s stars at Brazil 2014 and will be the focus of special attention from El Tri’s Group A opponents Croatia, Brazil and Cameroon in trying to stop him.
A move over the pond beckons if the European Union passport holder has many more nights like this one.
Isaac Brizuela not at ease
The Toluca winger struggled to get involved against Israel and has lost the form he was showing a couple of months ago.
While for his club side he tends to hug the touchline, Herrera is asking him to play inside more, allowing space for right wing back Paul Aguilar to overlap.
It is something that Brizuela needs to get used to quickly and it was noticeable that his best moment of the game came when he was one-on-one with a defender on the right flank during the second half.
Good night for Carlos Salcido
One of the surprise call-ups to El Tri’s World Cup squad, Salcido featured in the center of the back three, with Francisco “Maza” Rodriguez to the right and Diego Reyes on the left.
Salcido organized the defense well, looked at ease on the ball and made one key tackle in each half.
It would’ve been reassuring for Herrera to know Salcido showed good form, something he hasn’t done recently for Tigres.
Blanco tribute over the top
The career of ‘El Cuau’ has been extraordinary and he will go down in history as one of Mexico’s greatest players. He deserved a tribute.
But it was unwise to do it this close to the World Cup, with so much still up in the air and Herrera in a race against time to get his team working.
Surely, any tribute – at least from the strictly soccer perspective – could’ve waited.
Forty minutes was too many and could’ve been better spent looking how Oribe Peralta works with Raul Jimenez or Alan Pulido, or by giving Javier Hernandez the playing time he desperately needs ahead of Brazil 2014.