“Here’s some food-for-thought for Juan Carlos Osorio heading into the Quarterfinals”
With Jesus “Tecatito” Corona’s equalizer in the 80th minute against Venezuela, Mexico finished atop their group on goal differential – avoiding a matchup against Argentina in the quarterfinals.
Hirving “Chucky” (Choo-kie) Lozano, among other players like Oribe Peralta, Pablo Aguilar, and Torres Nilo, were rotated into the lineup against Venezuela. In total, there were nine changes in Mexico’s lineup for the final Group C match (more on that later). Ultimately, it was “Tecatito’s” substitution for an injured Aquino that changed the game on its head.
Mexico is now 22 games undefeated in all competitions – the longest international streak in the world and a new national team record. Impressive, indeed.
Juan Carlos Osorio’s team will face Chile (Saturday, 7:00 P.M.) after Arturo Vidal and his men found victory against Panama on Tuesday. Chile will be looking for redemption after losing 1-0 to Mexico in the last friendly game before the Copa America commenced.
Second place Venezuela, on the other hand, will face Tata Martino’s in-form Argentina (Saturday, 4:00 P.M.).
With the quarter-finals set in stone, here’s what Mexico will need to consider for the Chile game in order to make it onto the semis:
Osorio needs to find his starting-eleven
Here’s the “more on that later” part: Osorio’s experimental rotations with his squad has cost Mexico much needed consistency. For example, his nine changes from the last group match versus Venezuela exemplify this.
Against Venezuela, Osorio rotated Chicharito for Oribe Peralta as a striker; Aquino replaced “Tecatito” on the left wing; and Hirving Lozano took Raul Jimenez’s duties on the right wing. And while it’s usually wise to field a “B-Squad” in the last match – as they already qualified with the win against Jamaica – it’s not doing Mexico any favors in terms of cohesion and consistency.
Additionally, the three matches Mexico played in their group were far from consistent and dominant altogether – except for their opener against Uruguay, which was bby far their most impressive.
After their opener, Osorio alternated their offense against Jamaica to a 4-3-3 by playing Raul Jimenez on the right wing with Chicharito as striker, and “Tecatito” on the left wing.
And while Mexico won 2-0, it was far from convincing in terms of a fluid offense that could hang with a team such as Argentina.
As it is, Mexico has a history of always leaving it until the end and, as a result, creating unnecessary drama. Osorio needs to cement a consistent starting eleven for the knockout stages.
Osorio will have another dilemma on his hands: who will be the number one keeper in between the sticks for Mexico in the knockout stages?
Each goalie – Alfredo Talavera, Memo Ochoa, and Jesus Corona – have provided Osorio with their respective litmus tests in each group matches. Talavera started against Uruguay, Ochoa against Jamaica, and Corona against Venezuela. Each keeper has their apparent strengths and weaknesses when playing; however, it’s time for Osorio to make a decision and stick with one keeper.
Personally, I believe Memo Ochoa should be Mexico’s number one keeper. While he does not offer as much experience as Jesus “Chuy” Corona offers, Ochoa offers a crucial trait – shot stopper. In the 2014 World Cup, his incredible reactions and positioning were put on display against Brazil – Ochoa’s save against Thiago Silva’s header comes into mind instantly.
And against Jamaica, Ochoa made two crucial saves to retain Mexico’s lead in what should have been a ‘straight forward’ match. As a result, Ochoa’s reflexes and positioning kept Mexico’s lead comfortable and not erratic.
However, in Talavera’s and Corona’s defense, they both had their highlights in their respective matches against Uruguay and Venezuela, too – Corona’s save while Mexico were level against Venezuela stands out.
The luxury with Mexico’s keepers is that each can place their argument as to why one should start over the other. Again, this only makes matters much more difficult for Osorio and he will need to sort this out for Saturday.
Tecatito’s and Lozano’s Influence
There’s no doubt that Jesus “Tecatito” Corona has raw talent. He isn’t afraid to implement a trick or two into his quick and incisive runs down the left wing. He isn’t afraid to take the game to defenders – just take a look at his equalizer against Venezuela. And he is definitely not one to sit back when Mexico need individual inspiration.
At this point in the Copa America, “Tecatitio’s” influence within the team has been overwhelmingly positive.
Luckily, for Osorio and for Mexico, another player that exemplifies “Tecatito’s” raw talent and constant work-rate is Pachuca’s very own Hirving “Chucky” Lozano.
Lozano’s influence within the team has been instant. His form has been red hot since winning Mexico’s 2016 LIga MX Clasura title with Pachuca. He’s been linked with potential moves to Europe – Manchester United have reportedly been keen on Lozano’s skill-set – and, most importantly, he looks hungry to continue his impressive form.
If Osorio wants to get the best out of Mexico’s offense, he will need to start both “Tecatito” and Lozano on each respective wing with Chicharito up top as striker.