Gio dos Santos has confidence-boosting night as Mexico departs with win

Giovani dos Santos Mexico Scotland international friendly 2018
Hector Vivas
The LA Galaxy attacker has struggled for fitness and form but scored in El Tri's sendoff match top cap off a good day

Giovani dos Santos scored the winning goal for Mexico in a 1-0 win over Scotland on Saturday, capping off a day that should fill him with confidence ahead of the World Cup.

Before the game arrived the news that Dos Santos' World Cup place should be secure. Mexico is taking 24 players to Denmark, with Dos Santos on the list. It appears either Erick Gutierrez or Andres Guardado will be the last player removed from the roster with the plan all along to have Guti as the backup in case Guardado isn't fit enough to compete in Russia.

Earlier in the week, there were plenty of questions about whether or not Dos Santos was himself fit enough for Russia or even if he brought enough to the table when he is fit. Mexico coach Juan Carlos Osorio spoke last week about wanting the expectation of Dos Santos scoring like he did for El Tri in the World Cup against the Netherlands in 2014 to become a reality once again.

Saturday night wasn't a pressure-packed situation, but Dos Santos did deliver with Osorio once again giving the LA Galaxy attacker a role that fits him to a T. "It's not where I see him, it's where he sees himself," Osorio said after a scoreless draw with Wales earlier this week. "He sees himself and where we agree he can play, first off as a midfielder,then behind the 9 then on the interior and/or as a right winger with an inverted profile."

So there he was Saturday right behind Raul Jimenez as El Tri looked to snap a two-match scoreless streak. Dos Santos did it early, scoring from the top of the box in the 13th minute. He'd passed up a chance to see if Carlos Vela had a better look. When he didn't, Vela returned the ball to Dos Santos who fired it in.

Dos Santos continued to come up more than fellow interior midfielder Miguel Layun in the first half, though both he and Layun had plenty of freedom to get forward but difficulty playing in the front three with Scotland leaving little space behind their line.

"I think it was positive for the interiors today in the game for Giovani, for Miguel and the three in front it was very hard against a team that was really withdrawn, a strong team with a very good physical presences and with no space in behind the back line," Osorio said after the match Saturday. "However, I think Giovani showed really good qualities. He produced a very, very good goal.

"It makes me very happy for him and other players who showed their talent. I think he showed that athletically he’s good and he’s in conditions to fight for a place in the three positions where he feels comfortable. That’s good for the national team."

The happiness looks to be mutual. How Dos Santos feels about Osorio continuing to call on him and keeping him in the roster - even giving him such an important role in the sendoff match - was obvious after the goal. The 29-year-old sprinted straight over to the manager to celebrate with him and the rest of the bench.

The Mexico fans still might not feel the same way. There were more "Fuera Osorio" chants and plenty of boos in what was supposed to be a happy sendoff - and one that ended with a victory. Mexico did again show a stunning lack of ability to finish when in front of goal, but on the whole it wasn't a bad day for El Tri.

In addition to getting a victory and heading across the Atlantic without any new injuries, it also was a day when Mexico could dream. After South Korea's loss to Bosnia and Herzegovina on Friday, Germany lost to Austria earlier in the day Saturday.  "If they can do it why not us?"

Giovani dos Santos Mexico Scotland international friendly 2018

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Of course, Osorio realizes that it isn't quite that easy. His team will play much better in the World Cup than it did Saturday, after weeks of drilling down on the desired formation and behaviors. He'll field a stronger lineup. So too will El Tri's group rivals.

What Osorio may not have been able to factor in until late Saturday is that he'll have a Giovani dos Santos who not only wants to reward the confidence shown to him by the manager, but also is coming off a positive performance after what has been a frustrating year.

An amazing summer would take all those feelings of frustration and uncertainty away.