Nine years after Mexico won its first gold medal in men’s soccer, El Tri appears to have what it takes to make another run to the top of the Olympic podium. The Mexican team showed they are ready to compete, opening their 2021 Olympic tournament with a resounding 4-1 victory over France, a pre-tournament favorite.
The Mexicans were better than France in all sectors of the field and it was reflected on the scoreboard thanks to four goals in the second half from four different scorers: Alexis Vega, Sebastián Córdova, Uriel Antuna and Eduardo Aguirre.
“We are a talented team,” said goalkeeper and captain Guillermo “Memo” Ochoa, “players with a lot of quality, hungry to win, shine and transcend. Combine it with players who have played in the senior team, and it shows when you have it. You have to make decisions in a game like this: a tackle, a pass or a shot. And today we did really well. “
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There was very little to dislike about Mexico’s performance, which showed few weaknesses and illustrated all the reasons why they will compete for the Olympic title once again:
Gamebreakers in green
France may have had the big name on the field in striker Andre-Pierre Gignac, but Mexico’s attackers were the ones who always seemed to be able to decide the game. And they all did.
Vega on the left and his teammate Diego Lainez on the right were electric with the ball at their feet, facing the defenders one by one and going straight to the goal. And every time they went to the French defense, they wreaked havoc. With teammate Henry Martin diligently fulfilling the role of center forward, Vega and Lainez had a willing partner who occupied the defenders and made room for them.
Vega appears to be in the best shape of his career, and when he plays with the kind of fire he showed against France, it’s hard to contain. Meanwhile, Lainez was the brightest player on the field and created the first goal in one of his several penetrating runs to the area. His elegant crossover cut served up an attractive ball that Vega burst into the area to head home.
If attacking midfielder Córdova is included in this attacking combination – he showed his soccer IQ on his well-scored goal in the area – it is easy to understand why all of these players are already part of the setup of the senior Mexican national team under him. coach Gerardo “Tata” Martino.
Mexico is deep
You know things are really clicking when two players come off the bench and also score. Mexico’s Olympic coach Jaime Lozano was rewarded for his decision to bring reinforcements in attack despite having an advantage. Right-back Antuna (minute 72) and center forward Eduardo Aguirre (minute 88) entered and helped seal the deal.
Antuna’s speed will be a real weapon off the bench in this tournament. He used it to good effect on Mexico’s third goal when he came in for Lainez. He first pushed his defender back and then cut inside before firing a low, driven shot from the post. He came in with 10 minutes to go and helped put the match out of reach for France.
And Aguirre is a less experienced version of Henry Martin, with arguably a better nose for goal. He showed it in his shot, Mexico’s fourth, driving the ball from a tight angle past the goalkeeper at the near post. Expect him to start in one of the group games to give Martin a break before the single elimination knockout rounds.
There are also no weak links in defense
If it wasn’t enough that Mexico had the best attacking talent on the field, the players on the baseline also outshined their opponents.
Right back Jorge Sánchez is a multi-million dollar transfer material with the combination of reach, strength and speed. France rarely bothered to attack from their flank.
While it definitely helped that they had experience playing against Gignac in Mexico’s Liga MX, center-backs César “Cachorro” Montes and Johan Vasquez were in control. The only real misstep was Montes’s lack of judgment on the sliding inning in his own box that led to France’s penalty goal.
Romo is the glue boy
This time his name does not appear in the scoreboard, but central midfielder Luis Romo is the most important player on this Mexican team. La Liga club Getafe was making a transfer push for him, but his Mexican club Cruz Azul has reportedly turned it down and they could get new bidders if there is a deep Olympic run for Mexico.
Romo is apparently everywhere on the field, and it’s because he has a great sense of the game. It brings balance to your team, supporting the attack or protecting the baseline, and what you choose is generally the right decision. Plus, he runs for two players, making for a massive on-field presence.
Mexico is a well-oiled machine
The players know each other well, in part thanks to previous camps under the leadership of Mexico’s senior manager, Tata Martino. That familiarity was evident against France, a team that only met for this tournament and will never play together again.
Mexico was the cohesive side and it showed in their passing and how they escaped, especially in the transition. All the players have clear roles and they play them well. For example, left-back Erick Aguirre was a stay-at-home defender and didn’t go overboard on the attacking side, especially with Sánchez hanging around on the right. And it worked very well.
This spirit became more evident in the moments after their goals, when the Mexicans sent a message to France that they would not let them return to the game: El Tri hit the ball with personality, keeping it away from the French. It was a flexible move from a team that knows it is good.
Mexico has the appearance of a complete team: they can score, they can defend, and they can manage and control games. Outside of Brazil, there doesn’t seem to be another nation they should be afraid of the rest of the way, especially the way El Tri handled France.