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Can Mexico win the 2017 Confederations Cup?

16th June 2017. By Edward Stratmann.
While drawing with the United States wasn’t necessarily a bad result, one that importantly means they’ve still never lost at home inside the Azteca to the U.S, Mexico will still feel a sense that they should’ve taken all three points.

After all, they largely dominated the game on their way to amassing 74% of the possession and looked the more composed side. But Bruce Arena’s visiting side deserve credit for the way they diligently stuck to their task, defending extremely competently in their usually deep block.

can-mexico-win-the-2017-confederations-cup-usaSpeaking in his post match comments, Mexico’s tactically astute manager, Juan Carlos Osorio, had some interesting comments to make about the two teams and their massively different approaches.

“I think their intention from the start was to defend, with a line of five and three midfielders to stop our attacks,” asserted Osorio. “They played for an error or the possibility of a transition, which is what happened [for Michael Bradley’s opening goal].”

“Our obligation is to keep working and translate the efficiency that our team is showing into effectiveness in the final third to complete our plays better.”

Even though EL Tri were restricted to just one shot on target due to the resolute U.S rearguard, there was still a lot to admire about their attacking philosophy and function.

During their possession phases, Osorio instructed his men to play in what was ostensibly a 2-3-2-3. The two centre-backs would split to the width of the 18-yard-box to spread out and create space for Hector Herrera to receive in central locations, who was usually on the same line as the fullbacks. Indeed, Herrera’s energy and movement was key, as he was forced to cover a lot of ground and constantly provide an option to his colleagues if they needed support.

Then Marco Fabian and Jonathan dos Santos operated predominantly in the left and right half space within the attacking third, but at times with the brief to drop deep to connect play, with the pair’s can-mexico-win-the-2017-confederations-cup-vela-lozanopositioning constantly posing questions to their opposition defenders and midfielders who should mark them.

And lastly the front three consisted of talented youngster Hirving Lozano, the skillful Carlos Vela and excellent forward Javier Hernandez. Hernandez would embark on quality runs into depth that not only put himself into promising scoring positions but also stretched the U.S backline to create additional space for his teammates in between the lines. The two wide men provided great directness on the dribble and a fine option for cross-field switches to due to their expertise in 1v1 scenarios. Moreover, Vela and Lozano regularly drifted infield to overload the 10 spaces and link play with some ingenuitive, defence manipulating combination play, which importantly also made room down the flanks for the fullbacks to utilise.

Osorio’s deployment of his players within his chosen positional play system did a largely fine job of achieving its set aim of spacing his troops across the field in order to have ideal connections between the players, plus to create the conditions to disorganise their opponents’ defensive structure and to play penetrative forward passes.

can-mexico-win-the-2017-confederations-cup-osorioThey went about attempting to breach Arena’s setup by using subtle interchanges of positions by the attackers in the final third, overloading either flank and the 10 spaces and by performing orchestrated switches of play. Put simply, they were always searching to gain superiority in their offensive passages, whether positional, quantitative or qualitative.

A key byproduct of Mexico’s aforementioned attacking occupation was that it put them in brilliant positions to stop the Stars and Stripes in defensive transition. This, in combination with their strong and immediate counter pressing efforts, saw Mexico win the ball back on numerous occasions before the USMNT could instigate their counters.

Despite Mexico ultimately not being able to win the hotly contested fixture, instead having to settle for a 1-1 draw, there were nonetheless many positives to be drawn for their performance. Indeed, the result ensures Osorio’s men remain undefeated in their CONCACAF Hexagonal World Cup qualifying group and acted as another important part of their build up to the Confederations Cup that kicks off in Russia at the weekend.

Kicking off the tournament against reigning European Champions, Portugal, on Sunday night will serve as a fascinating test of their quality. Who knows, if Osorio and his men can produce their best football, they might even go all the way and take out the coveted tournament.

More articles by Edward at Licence to Roam.