With the World Cup throwing up a plethora of unexpected results, many could be forgiven if Mexico’s win over France was unforeseen. Whilst this was not a complete shock-Mexico beat holders Italy in a warm-up game two weeks earlier, it has given El Tri the belief that they can continue to make a name for themselves in the tournament. In the aftermath of such an important victory, Coach Javier Aguirre has ordered his troops to keep their cool ahead of Tuesday’s final group game with Uruguay. He said: “We took a giant step with our win against France. But there are still things left to do. We are a team that is trying to find balance, impose its play and we are getting results. I hope against Uruguay we have clear ideas in our head and we are strong.”
The Aztecas will approach the clash with the incentive of group winners awaiting the victors, but have been forced into changes. Efrain Juarez’s yellow card in the 2-0 win over Les Bleus leaves his suspended and there are concerns that the injury that forced Carlos Vela to be replaced may keep him on the sidelines. With that in mind, Aguirre may have some re-shuffling to do, especially in Juarez’s absence. Andres Guardardo has been a candidate for a central midfield role in the past, likewise Pablo Barrera, who thrived in the left-sided role in Vela’s absence in Polokwane. Yet with Guardado playing much of his club football on the left- as well as featuring in that position as a second-half substitute against South Africa– both have legitimate claims to either starting role. Israel Castro, one of the few out and out central midfielders in the squad, could be favoured with Aguirre keen on utilising Guardado and Barrera higher up the pitch.
Attacking with pace, and in great numbers have been qualities that El Tri have shown great belief in during the World Cup but Aguirre also ensures that his side is defensively sound. Diego Forlan and Luis Suarez’s form going into this match sees Uruguay possess a genuine threat upfront, something that may force Mexico to stick with the same back four that shut out the French. Against Bafana Bafana, Paul Aguilar was the pick of the Mexican performers in the first-half, heavily involved in attacks. Yet Ricardo Osorio was favoured to Aguilar at right-back in their second game, with more emphasis being placed on defending from the back.
Carlos Salcido has license to bomb forward and support the front men, but the three-pronged central midfield guard against the space temporarily vacated by Salcido’s attacking instincts. Should Vela overcome the knock then the side should alter just the once to accommodate Juarez’s suspension. Such selection consistency in the starting XI has enabled Mexico to forge a strong understanding in their new way of playing. The Coach used the preparations for the tournament to fine tune the 4-5-1 formation deployed thus far, providing El Tri with an alternative system whilst retaining their high-tempo attacking intentions.
With just a point needed to progress to the latter stages, Mexico are in a healthy position. The Coach has acted swiftly following the defeat of France to deflect any raised expectations away from his side, a shrewd move considering many of the squad are yet to experience big-match pressure. Captain Rafael Marquez’s wealth of Champions League experience may prove invaluable and his calming influence will reflect Aguirre’s message on the field, allowing the Aztecas’ more creative players to prosper. A second win for Mexico will reward them with not only with the top spot in Group A, but also see them avoid Argentina in the round of 16.