Memo Ochoa was monumental in Mexico’s intense 0-0 draw against Felipão’s Seleção. In the 27th minute, Neymar looked like he would give Brazil the lead. The impact of the goal could have easily been too much to handle for Mexico, but it was Ochoa’s courageous effort to deny Neymar’s header and that set the tone for the rest of the match.
What followed was a tireless Mexico display in front of their loyal fans at a rowdy Fortaleza. The whole team, for large intervals of the match, bossed Brazil around and dictated the tempo. Likewise, Brazil took the game to Mexico for other intervals of the match. Not to discredit Ochoa’s “best game” of his life, but let’s also acknowledge the monumental performances from all the outfield players (Gallito Vasquez, in particular).
The pressure and organization found in Mexico against Brazil will need to translate into a nothing less than a win against Croatia. If Mexico were to tie with Croatia in the final match, Piojo’s men would still advance; however the win is what is needed in order for Mexico to continue their impressive momentum.
Jose “Gallito” Vasquez – in particular – had undoubtedly his best competitive game with Mexico. He chased down every ball no matter the size of his opponent. Along with Vasquez, Guardado shone in the right time. After a quiet year for both club and country, Guardado worked Brazil and improved his distribution throughout the match. El ‘Gallo’ and Guardado will both need to be instrumental for Mexico to succeed against Croatia next Monday.
On the defensive end, Rafa Marquez got the job done not only as a defender, but also as a center mid. He drove down the middle, when Mexico was on the break, and was purposeful while progressing the play. While Aguilar and Layun had more hiccups in their performance than Moreno and Rodriguez, the two fullbacks displayed heart and courage in their game.
On the flip side, Herrera and Peralta both had quiet games. Herrera didn’t look as his lethal self and Mexico’s potency was reduced to a couple of wide shots taken outside the box. David Luiz effectively shut down Peralta’s service both outside the box and down the middle. Against Croatia, Peralta should be able to work outside the box and down the middle with much more fluidity.
Croatia will also be going into the next game with momentum on their side. Their 4-0 dismantling of Cameroon will give them the same hope that Mexico has to advance into the next round. Piojo and Mexico must recognize this, but more importantly, all of El Tri will need to play to the same level as they did against Cameroon and Brazil.
What makes the World Cup so enthralling is the thought that at any time throughout the tournament, one loss of concentration can see your dreams eliminated in an instant.
Mexico’s rejuvenated unity coming into the World Cup (credit Piojo) is propelling them into the next round. This is the true opportunity for Mexico to erase a previous year of frustrating results and performances in World Cup qualifiers, as well as friendlies. Mexico’s final test will be next week.
Priority number one for Piojo: win.
Written by Michael Serrano
Follow him: @Mikkkeey