London 2012 Olympics Focus - Mexico vs. Senegal
Mexico take on Senegal at Wembley in Saturday’s second quarter-final, the winners earning the right to take on the winner of the Japan vs Egypt tie in the semi-final.
Mexico finished top of Group B following a 0-0 draw with South Korea, a 2-0 victory over Gabon and a 1-0 win over Switzerland. Senegal were runners-up in Group A, with a draw against Group winners Team GB, a 2-0 victory over Uruguay and a 1-1 draw with UAE.
This could prove to be an intriguing tie. Mexico have reached the quarter-final without conceding a goal, while Senegal have the leading scorer in the tournament. Mexico have trickery and pace, Senegal the physicality and power; both have shown themselves to be good teams.
Mexico’s defensive solidity is due in some part to the form of over-age goalkeeper, Jose Corona, and also to the tactics of Coach Luis Fernando Tena. Under him, Mexico have played high up the pitch, essentially keeping the ball away from their defence as much as possible. They retain possession when in attack, and play a pressing game when not. However, in Senegal they are up against a team who play their own pressing game, and as seen against Uruguay are good at disrupting the opposition’s attacking game and stopping them play.
Mexico came into the tournament with what appeared one of the most notable forward lines in Giovani dos Santos, Oribe Peralta and Michel Fabian. However, the combination has not quite clicked yet. Fabian and Peralta have scored one goal between them, while Giovani has scored twice but has been mainly used as a substitute.
In contrast, Senegal appear to be continuing their production line of class strikers. In the 19-year-old Maccabi Tel Aviv striker, Moussa Konate, the Teranga Lions not only have the tournament’s top scorer with four goals, but their only scorer. Whether he can reproduce his scoring exploits against El Tri’s defence remains to be seen, he should get chances and his strength appears to be finishing rather than any creativity in the build-up play. For Senegal that may be all they need.
So far Giovani has been the main player for El Tri despite only being used as a substitute in the first two matches. Tena has kept play tight using a 4-4-2 formation, until the introduction of Giovani where Mexico would switch to a more fluid set-up that represents a 4-2-3-1 or 4-3-3. Giovani runs at defences with pace, control and trickery and in full flow can be difficult to contain. Not only have Mexico only scored when the Tottenham player has been on the pitch, but arguably they have only looked threatening when he has. Senegal may well set out to physically dominate Giovani, as well as Javier Aquino and Miguel Ponce, and nullify Mexico’s supply line to their forwards.
Will Konate score against El Tri’s dominant defence? Will the Teranga Lions’ imposing midfield close down Mexico’s pacey and tricky midfielders? Will Mexico’s forwards click? Ultimately, the match may be decided by these small battles all over the pitch.
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