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Osorio gets win to silence doubters & more: Five things from Mexico's win over Germany

12:15 AM GMT+8 19/06/2018
Juan Carlos Osorio Mexico
The El Tri boss has been subject to relentless criticism, but could have the last laugh. Goal looks back at a historic victory in Moscow

It was a historic night for Mexico. Players and manager Juan Carlos Osorio can downplay it all they want. It's the media's job to talk about that, they say.

And they're right. So let's do it. Is there a better triumph in World Cup history than Sunday's 1-0 win over reigning champions Germany? There isn't. A 2-0 win against Bulgaria in 1986 is the closest competitor, but that came in Mexico City and was dampened by a quarterfinal defeat to West Germany.

It's also ancient history. The modern game is ruthless. Players are better now than ever before thanks to advances in training methods and athletic science.

Chicharito also is right about one thing. The win will be meaningless if Mexico can't finish the job.

Let's take a look back at the night that will be remembered forever by Mexico fans and what El Tri have to do to make sure it isn't all for nothing:


A win to silence Osorio's critics


Mexico manager Juan Carlos Osorio has been raked over the coals during his two-and-a-half year tenure leading El Tri. Despite a positive record, Osorio's unique methods have earned him plenty of enemies. They were remarkably quiet after El Tri's 1-0 win Sunday.

The pressure doesn't seem to have gotten to him, though you could tell he enjoyed the win, dedicating it to "Mexican fans. Those who have supported me and those who haven't." Even so, Osorio has worked to take the pressure off his players, even as the press and fans heap expectations upon them.

"Personally, like I've always told my players, the pressure here is mine. The only thing they have to do worry about is playing soccer and doing it like they did it today. When we win, all credit goes to the players, when we don't there's only one person who takes the blame. That's soccer, and you have to take it on in this way. Today my players dedicated themselves to playing, to trying to win every ball, every duel and I think we competed excellently against the world champions."

It's worth nothing that Mexico has done this before. Remember the 2016 Copa America Centenario, when Osorio drew up a brillant game plan that stunted Uruguay. El Tri rolled to a 3-1 victory. Few need reminding about what happened next. It was a similar story in last year's Confederations Cup, with Mexico performing well in the group stage and struggling in the first knockout game.

When Osorio has time to draw out a game plan, he's excellent. While his critics have been overly harsh and won't be saying much after Sunday's win, it's fair to say he's yet to have success in the latter rounds of big tournaments.


Chicharito played with emotion


Mexico forward Javier "Chicharito" Hernandez wasn't the best player on the field Sunday, but you could tell he gave it all for his country. Hernandez has spoken recently about things that need to change in Mexico and expressed his frustration with things like the fallout after Mexico players were spotted at a party on a day off before flying out for the World Cup. His love for his country, despite the issues, was on full display. As the national anthem began and he heard fans belting out the first line in the Luzhniki Stadium, he could hardly hold back the tears, wiping his face while he continued to sing.

After the match, the tears flowed. He had helped Mexico do it, setting up Hirving Lozano's winner with clever movement on the counter-attack and giving him the pass that led to Chucky's historic finish. There were times when he wasn't totally in sync with Lozano or Carlos Vela, missing opportunities in the 18th minute to finish and in the 57th to add a second on the counter-attack. His work rate couldn't be equaled, though, and Chicharito deserves a share of the credit for Mexico pulling out the win.

He won't linger on it long, though. After the match, he said the focus already is on Korea. Why? Because just like off the field, he wants more for his country.

"The World Cup isn't just one game. We want to go really far, we want to go to the final of the World Cup, so we have to go step by step," he said. 

With finishing a concern, El Tri need Chicharito to be there every step of the way, putting in the same sort of effort he did in the opener.


Brave moments for Rafa


I'd written that I wasn't sure when you put Rafa Marquez in to see the field in his fifth World Cup. Clearly, he wasn't along to not play in the tournament and see time in his fifth World Cup, but he also was a liability in the middle of the field in a pre-tournament friendly against Denmark. So it was a surprise to see him walk to the center line and take the captain's armband from Andres Guardado in the 74th minute as Mexico's final substitute in the opening match against Germany.

It worked out, though. Marquez wasn't left on an island, with Hector Herrera still next to him and Edson Alvarez also in the match with fresh legs to help defend. He was able to help El Tri close up shop and limit Germany's late chances. "I wanted to try to have more control of the ball, try to take advantage of the spaces the team left and above all to defend as well as possible," he said.

Now the question is whether Marquez may see the field again in Russia. A lot has changed since he made his World Cup debut in Niigata, Japan, 16 years ago.

"Since I took part in a World Cup in 2002 there have been a lot of changes," he said. "Obviously, with the national team as well, there are faster players, more athletic players, players with better technique. This team is different from the one I was on, maybe, in 2002 and in the process we’ve had."

One thing that hasn't changed is that teams need depth in the World Cup. If Marquez can continue to have quality in the final 20 minutes-30 minutes of games, he can be part of that depth for future contests.


Midfield functions with Layun


Miguel Layun came into the midfield once again Sunday, and he did well once again. Layun is a defender but his versatility has encouraged several managers to tweak things and play him farther forward. With Sevilla in the spring, he often moved into the middle, coming away with a goal against Real Madrid among other standout showings in La Liga.

Layun helped stretch Germany but also put more strength in the midfield than a player like Giovani dos Santos has provided when he's played on the inside. Not only did Layun put in a good showing himself, but in keeping his position he freed Carlos Vela to serve as the facilitator for the attackers working in front of him.

"We'd designed a plan six months ago. With the injuries, we have to change a few of the most important players, but the idea always was to have really fast players on the wings," Osorio said. "Today we decided to go with Hirving Lozano, who is the fastest player we have and is a winger, and a player coming in on the outside as the case of Miguel Layun."

Jesus Gallardo's strong performance at left back means the option is there for Layun to be in the midfield once again. With Diego Reyes out injured, it's a good way for Mexico to have a player who can help the attack without sacrificing too much defending ability in the middle as well.


Focus on Korea


 

After an uninspiring Sweden victory over Korea, the group looks like it's there for the taking for El Tri. It's not guaranteed, though. They still need to win those games.

Osorio will play a few different players in Saturday's match against Korea and, as always, has a new tactical plan as well. The manager laughed when he was asked if Mexico was now the favorite to win the group, but he spoke first about the difficulty Sweden could pose rather than Korea. That said, Mexico is ready for the next game.

"I prefer to say we're going to recover and prepare the game against South Korea well, which surely is going to be difficult, then the game against Sweden and we're going to see how far we can go," Osorio said.

That is the question now. Mexico has cleared the first hurdle. Even if the next two look shorter, they still could trip El Tri up if they don't jump their highest.