There were questions, concerns, and mystery headed into Mexico’s first game of World Cup Qualifying. The questions of many had to do with the reserved nature of new coach Juan Carlos Osorio. Unlike former coach Miguel Herrera, J.C. Osorio refused to give out the starting lineup a day before. The concerns revolved around how the team would play in their first match lead by Osorio, and if things weren’t going well, would the Estadio Azteca crowd turn on the team as it had in the past?
When the team sheet was revealed, the mystery was solved and Osorio came out guns blazing with his lineup. The starting XI was slightly makeshift but not to the extent that he had lead many to believe heading into the match as Moises Munoz started in goal. His backline of four contained Miguel Layun, Hugo Ayala, Hector Moreno, and Luis Fuentes. While the middle saw Andres Guardado and Hector Herrera playing in the center while Carlos Vela and Jesus Corona patrolled the wings. Up front were Oribe Peralta and Javier Hernandez.
The aggressive lineup played like a 4-2-4 than a 4-4-2, with Mexico playing without a defensive midfielder and showing no worries of an El Salvador counter attack or mustering any sort of attack.
It only took seven minutes for the crowd at the Azteca to get off their feet when captain Guardado hit a free kick that went over the wall and into the upper corner of the goal, leaving the keeper flying through the air but without any real chance of blocking the shot and giving Mexico an important 1-0 lead.
Mexico controlled the ball and the game as “Ole’s” rained over the field with each successful pass. Right before halftime, Herrera found himself right outside the box and played a ball over the El Salvador’s backline to a streaking Hernandez. As Chicharito stretched his foot out, the run and the move was enough to keep the keeper motionless as the ball would go by both and into the back of the net to give Mexico a 2-0 lead at halftime.
The goals would continue midway through the second half when Corona slipped a through ball between the El Salvador backline and found Vela, who with his first touch chipped the ball past the keeper and into the goal to give Mexico an emphatic 3-0 lead.
It was an overwhelming dominant performance for Mexico against a poor El Salvador team. El Salvador’s only shot came in the 54th minute, which didn’t trouble Munoz at all. Mexico dominated possession, controlling almost 75% of the ball. What will be worrisome will be the amount of chances El Tri were unable to finish, as Chicharito himself missed about three of them.
All in all though, it was the type of win that was expected from Mexico and they delivered. Three points to start off their World Cup campaign and a win in J.C. Osorio's first match. Games will begin to get more challenging, starting Tuesday in Honduras, but for now the job was done.
Speaking of Honduras, they traveled north to face Canada, and it was the Mounties that came away with a big 1-0 at home from a Cyle Larin goal off a Will Johnson assist.
*Top two teams qualifying to the final round of play, known as the Hexagon, or Hex.