Luis Fernando Tena: Our possession play made the difference against Senegal's vertical style

After Mexico's hard fought win over Senegal, Luis Fernando Tena noted that Senegal's vertical style put El Tri against the wall on more than one occasion.
LONDON, England -- The first words out of Luis Fernando Tena's mouth summed it up.

"Wow, that was a difficult game," the Mexico boss admitted after his boys gutted out a 4-2 win over Senegal in extra time. Throughout the match, Mexico's possession style of play was put the test against a fast, determined opponent that pressured throughout.

"We like to play a possession game, the Africans are very athletic and play a vertical game, but we like more time on the ball, a horizontal game. We watched Senegal against Great Britain and Uruguay and knew they were a good team and dangerous, in particular through high balls," Tena said.

Indeed, it was high crosses that set up both of Senegal's goals, headed strikes by Moussa Konate and Ibrahima Baldé that came within seven minutes of each other and drew the Africans level after Mexico had taken a 2-0 lead.

But in extra time, Mexico battled back and took advantage of two horrendous mistakes in the back to seal it.

"It's true that there were certain individual errors which you could say cost us the game," admitted Senegal assistant coach Aliou Cisse after the game. "But please remember these are young players and these are mistakes they will learn from, so I don't think we should be too hard on them."

Senegal's loss, coupled with Egypt's exit earlier in the day after a loss to Japan, means that African involvement in the tournament is finished, a fact not lost on Cisse and the rest of the Lions of the Teranga.

"This is a disappointing day for African football, to see two good African teams being eliminated at the quarterfinal stage. But I take it as proof of our need to continue to work hard to close the gap with other continents," Cisse noted.

Meanwhile, Luis Fernando Tena focused on the task at hand, a semifinal match against Japan that could place Mexico in its first Olympic final ever. Japan defeated Mexico in a pre-tournament friendly only weeks before the start of the Games.

"We thought before, [the match against Senegal] would go to extra time and we practiced penalties. The same goes now for the next game with Japan. We played a friendly in Birmingham a couple of weeks ago and Japan won," Tena said.

With 120 minutes played and their next match less than 72 hours away, Tena downplayed the aspect of fatigue going forward.

"The physical condition of our team is very good. The players are committed and have a clear objective in this tournament. We are strong and we are not worried for Tuesday's match."
"The hardest is yet to come. We have won nothing yet and we know we have a fight and a struggle ahead," Tena finished.

Mike Slane provided additional reporting for this story from London.

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