Mexico

Mexico national team stars polish off Iceland after slow start from depth players

3/24/18
Mexico
Mexico v Iceland
Iceland
Friendlies
Hirving Lozano and Carlos Vela arrived at halftime to wake up an El Tri that was half-asleep in the first half
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There is no Mexico player playing like Hirving Lozano is playing right now.

In fact, that are few players around the world playing like "El Chucky" is playing right now.

There are, perhaps, even fewer players who can stop Lozano from doing what he wants. It showed Friday.

When the PSV star entered the match at halftime, things changed. Mexico was able to add to its lead and come away with a 3-0 victory over Iceland thanks in part to Lozano and his teammates who entered in the second half.

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Even then, Lozano wasn't totally happy with his performance, saying after the game there are plenty of ... well, just listen to him.

"It's very good. It's an important game against a tough opponent. Now we have to show in the next game that we're doing well, that we're on a good path," Lozano said. "We have to improve things that we have to improve. So, we're going to get improve those things in the time we have before the next game."

So, they're going to improve. To Lozano's point, the first 45 minutes were difficult for El Tri. They entered the halftime break with the lead thanks to Marco Fabian's screamer of a free kick that beat Iceland goalkeeper Runar Runarsson. But the lead was a fortunate byproduct of a play off a set piece. That's how we thought Iceland might have to find their goals in the first half, but the European visitors were denied a goal only by a save in the 9th minute from Jesus Corona and another at close range in the 22nd. 

"A lot of people think that when you play against a team like that, they will not even have a chance on goal," Mexico manager Juan Carlos Osorio said after the match. "The fact of the matter is that they believe in a way of playing, and to be honest I admire that, that they keep competing and keep believing in the way they play. It’s a very simple way of doing things. Start from the goalkeeper into the striker, it’s a flick-on and we go for the rebounds. Eventually they will have a shot on goal and they did. Fortunately for us our goalkeeper had a great night."

While Corona was the star of the first half, things shifted quickly when Lozano and Carlos Vela came into the game at the break. While Lozano committed a foul within 30 seconds of coming on and then had a laughable shot attempt squirt off the side of the his foot, he soon found his rhythm, assisting Miguel Layun for his first goal. Vela also was able to create issues for Iceland, whether he popped up further inside than he's played for his clubs in the past or found the ball on the wing.

While it wasn't pleasant to watch for Mexico fans, especially those in the stadium in Santa Clara, California, who had suffered through the 7-0 loss to Chile on the same field in 2016, there's no reason to get your dander up about the slow start.

Apart from Guardado and portions of the defense, most of the players on the field in the first half won't be starting against Germany. They may be starting against Sweden, whose style Osorio hoped to mimic by inviting the Vikings for the March friendly. Whether or not the formation, with a three-man line of center backs and a midfield consisting of Layun, Marco Fabian and Guardado in front of Diego Reyes, returns remains to be seen.

Osorio is using Croatia to prepare for Germany, the intimidating matchup with which Mexico will open the World Cup.

That should mean a more star-studded lineup Tuesday with Lozano, Vela and Chicharito coming into the starting XI. Mexico needs those stars to keep shining.

The difference in depth between what El Tri showed in the first half against Iceland and what Germany showed at the Confederations Cup was stark. Only 11 players can play at one time, though. With players like Lozano and Vela and some of Mexico's other top stars, it may be enough for a result in Russia.