The Mexican National Team and new coach Juan Carlos Osorio finally get to start their campaign towards the 2018 FIFA World Cup Friday when they face El Salvador from the comforts of their Mexico City home of El Esadio Azteca.
It’s been an interesting lead up to the match for people who follow Mexico as Osorio has little by little put his stamp on this team in unique ways with his selection and his words.
From what we can take of the words of Osorio, there’s a chance tomorrow we might not see Mexico’s strongest XI. He has a history of rotating players, and he’s mentioned how he doesn’t believe a player can play at his absolute best playing three games in roughly 12 days. When you take into account the fact that players participated in club games this past weekend, that means some likely will not play both matches. He’s expressed an even higher concern in that regard when it comes to his European based players when you add in all the travel, and the tricky trip to Honduras this following Tuesday. That is a fixture that has recently given Mexico fits when played in the Central American country, sp Osorio might be saving the likes of Andres Guardado, Hector Moreno, and Hector Herrera for that match up.
What we do know is Osorio basically called up two players for every position, he will play with four in the back, and on Friday he could play with a more aggressive lineup higher up the pitch. We also know, as he’s stated, that he likes his players to play on their strong side of the foot. Which means Miguel Layun will not play left back as he has recently done for Mexico, and club team Porto.
El Salvador have already said in the lead up to this game that they will look to sit back and soak up as much pressure as possible and hope to get a goal on the counter. At the very least, they hope to leave the game with a draw. Which is expected, since if they’re hoping to finish in the top two in the group and qualify for the Hex, they’re most likely banking on getting their points off the other teams in the group, Honduras and Canada. Anything they can get out of this match would be gravy.
With all that said, this could be the game for Guillermo Ochoa to start in goal, as it will present a low pressure situation for a player who hasn’t played a league match for his club team in over a year, and last played a match at the 2015 Gold Cup. This could also mean that in the center of defense Hugo Ayala and Oswaldo Alanis could start for Mexico with the younger Raul Lopez getting his first cap at the right back position if Osorio is hoping to save the legs of his best players for Tuesday.
We could also be getting our second look at younger Jurgen Damm on one of the wings and the return of Carlos Pena in the middle. While the exact starting lineup is still a bit of a mystery, what isn’t is the style in which Mexico hopes to play against a very compact El Salvador team. El Tri will attempt to use more natural wingers to try and stretch their opponents to help create more space to find the forwards up top, while at the same time having their outside backs push higher and create more two on one situations, and force El Salvador to come out of their shell a little more.
Friday will answer a few questions about what we might expect from Mexico in the future, and a win will help Osorio get things off on the right foot as he begins the journey in leading Mexico to Russia.