When Mexico was drawn into Group A earlier this year, supporters and pundits alike were writing El Tri to fall out after the group stages. There was no denying the clear decline in terms of the quality of soccer for Mexico. For the majority of this year and last, the Mexican squad looked listless – there was a clear divide in not only the player’s camp but also in the federation. Players looked lackadaisical in all aspects of their game, the manager situation only seemed to be getting worse by the week, and more worryingly, Mexico simply did not look like a team who deserved to be in the World Cup. Period.
Fast-forward to El Tri’s three performances in this year’s World Cup (a notable 0-0 draw against Brazil and a 3-1 victory over Croatia) and all previous criticisms plaguing the team have been thrown out the door. In spectacular fashion.
An important qualification into the round of sixteen has given Miguel Herrera a determined attitude for the match against the Netherlands. Moreover, Piojo’s energetic attitude has been infectious with his players and shared with supporters on social media with daily updates on the team.
We’re only a day away from Mexico’s clash versus the Dutch and while it may seem like a daunting task to win, Piojo’s men will use this opportunity to build on established momentum from the group stage.
Here are three quick things to consider for tomorrow’s game versus Louis Van Gaal’s Netherlands:
1.) Miguel Herrera’s Tactics
Make no mistake: Herrera’s tactics have been executed perfectly. The decision to center Mexico’s game on a 5-3-2 formation has been successful. The friendlies before the World Cup highlighted the positives and negatives that came with implementing a system like this.
The result: a more attacking line-up with two wing backs (Layun/Aguilar) that regularly come forward to help the attack but also return back to their defensive duties. Meanwhile, Rafa Marquez will act as a stopper or, more commonly, as a sweeper behind Moreno and Rodriguez. The trio: Herrera, Salcido, and Guardado, will all perform their duties and interchange positions to help Mexico retain the ball more efficiently and close the spaces in the middle. Because of this, Herrera’s side will look to nullify Robin van Persie’s threat down the middle and outside the eighteen-yard box.
Make no mistake: Mexico’s defense has been rock solid in the group stages and has only conceded one goal.
This will be key against a counter-attacking Dutch side. As we have seen in the Champions League semi-finals this past season when Real Madrid’s Carvajal guarded Robben to great effect. Carvajal did not allow for any space for Robben to operate the wing as he usually does. As a result, Robben was idle during both semi-final legs against Real Madrid. If Aguilar continues his impressive form in right back, Mexico can eliminate a major threat: Robben’s creativity.
And with Piojo, you also get this:joy (
2.) Hector Herrera Building Midfield Momentum
Hector Herrera has always shown glimpses of becoming one of Mexico’s best talents. In the 2012 London Olympics, we saw him become instrumental to Mexico’s gold medal victory. However, after the Olympics, Herrera made his move to Portugal’s FC Porto. And while he was starting to fulfill his potential, there was always that something Herrera didn’t fulfill just yet.
After almost being with FC Porto for two years, and working his way into the starting eleven, it feels like he has finally developed into the player everybody knew he would grow into.
Three games into the World Cup and ‘Zorrillo’ Herrera looks to continue his ingrained influence on Mexico’s midfield. Against Netherland’s, Herrera will have to cover more ground due to Gallito’s exclusion (more on that later) as Salcido will, most likely, be given more of a defensive role.
Guardado, on the other hand, will have to aid Herrera on both sides of the field by attacking effectively and retaining the ball effectively. Guardado’s crosses will not be needed as much, due to the height difference between the two sides, and will need to be more direct with his attacking.
Mexico’s attacks down the middle of the field, when everybody is interchanging positions fluidly, have looked very cohesive and dangerous. Piojo will need to address this and act accordingly to a shaky Netherlands defense.
3.) Carlos Salcido must fill in ‘Gallito’s’ crucial midfield role
The most important factor to draw from Herrera’s decision to replace Vasquez with Salcido is one thing – experience.
Salcido, more than anybody in the Mexican squad, should be well aware of the pace and style the Dutch can present. His time in Ajax saw him regularly in the starting eleven as well as winning two consecutive Eredivse titles – the first Mexican to accomplish such a feat.
While this was almost a decade ago, Herrera made the right choice in putting his faith in the 34-year old midfielder. Salcido will play a more defensive role in Piojo’s team and will look to help anchor Mexico’s middle when Netherlands is on the break.
Additionally, Salcido will offer more grit and ‘huevos’ when going against big opposition such as Sneijder, van Persie, and De Jong.
As a matter of fact, all of Mexico will need to put their ‘huevos’ on the line against a strong Netherlands side. It’s that time of the World Cup everybody: win or go home.
Written by Michael Serrano, who you can find @Mikkkeey