Friday, 22 July 2011

Copa América review: MEXICO

This is the first part of what will be the bulk of my Copa América writing. I will be reviewing all twelve nations in order of their tournament performance and talking results, tactics and players. First off let's take a look at one of the invited teams from CONCACAF, the only side not to record a point in the 2011 tournament, el Tri of MEXICO.

Mexico, fresh from a buoyant triumph at CONCACAF's Gold Cup in June, travelled to Argentina with a squad predominantly made up of players under the age of 23. All but one of the squad was based in Mexico, and that one player (Giovani dos Santos of Tottenham Hotspur) accounted for almost half of the total senior international caps of the entire 23-man party.

Despite bringing a 'weakened' squad, el Tri were very motivated and battled hard in all of their three group games. This effort was not enough however, and they lost all three matches in Group C starting with a 2x1 against Chile in their opener, and two 1x0 losses to both Peru and Uruguay. 

Their tactics were fairly unequivocal; they played a standard Latin American 3-5-2 in their first two matches, and only switched to an unfamiliar 4-4-2 in the meaningless final match against Uruguay. The 3-5-2 is based around the front two, with Giovani dos Santos supporting Rafael Márquez Lugo, and the energy of the two wing backs-cum-wide midfielders Paul Aguilar and Dárvin Chávez.

In their first match against Chile, the previously mentioned duo of Aguilar and Chávez were pinned back by Chile's own attacking wide players Beausejour and Isla. Consequently Mexico found it very hard to link their midfield and attack, with almost all of their hopes placed on the shoulders of dos Santos, who was expected to do everything.

Line ups vs Chile (Note the restriction of the wide players and large gap between midfield and attack
Mexico did manage to take the lead in that match from a Nestor Araujo header, though it was mainly due to Chile's defensive errors as opposed to Mexico's quality.

Mexico lost their lead in the second half due to a tactical masterstroke from Chile's boss Claudio Borghi (which we will discuss in more detail when it's Chile's turn), and ended up losing the match 2x1.

Next up, Mexico took on Peru in Mendoza. Coach Luis Fernando Tena kept the same team and formation from the match against Chile, and once again el Tri struggled for ideas and were overrun in the midfield.

Mexico struggled with the quality of Juan Manuel Vargas on Peru's left wing, and if it had not been for a strong display from goalkeeper Luis Michel, then Peru could have won this match by a much larger deficit. In reality, Michel made some excellent saves and kept the score down to 1x0 to Peru.

As had happened against Chile, Mexico looked extremely one-dimensional in this match. They did manage to register a few attempts on goal during the 90 minutes, but never really deserved anything more than a defeat.

In their final match against Uruguay, Tena altered the team and moved to a 4-4-1-1 shape, seeming more interested in giving his players match experience rather than chasing a result. The only personnel change from the 3-5-2 saw Miguel Ángel Ponce come in to the side to replace Javier Aquino, but the player's positions were tweaked considerably. Hiram Mier moved from the centre back trio to right back - leaving Reynoso and Araujo in the middle - and Dárvin Chávez dropped deeper to left back. Ponce played as Chávez's replacement on the left hand side of the midfield, with the rest of the side was kept the same. 

The 4-4-1-1 formation vs Uruguay

Against Uruguay they went 1x0 down early on, but still had an impressive first half and did not give much away to Uruguay's similar 4-4-2 formation. At half time however, Tena decided to make two substitutions and brought off dos Santos and Aguilar, certainly two of el Tri's more impressive players.

Regarding Mexico's best performers in the tournament, you cannot really look past midfielder Jorge Enríquez of Chivas Guadalajara. Enríquez, who played every minute of Mexico's group games, was imposing in the midfield, showing good dribbling skills and exceptional determination.

So where do Mexico go from here? Well, eight members of the squad (including Enríquez) will join up with the under-20 side to contest the 2011 Youth World Cup taking place in Colombia which runs throughout August. 


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