Mexico Olympic Soccer Team 2012: 6 Things El Tri Must Do to Defeat Japan
Mission accomplished. Mexico has reached the semifinals for the first time since 1968, when they hosted the Olympic Games. After suffering more than needed, El Tri defeated Senegal 4-2 in overtime and will face Japan next Tuesday.
It's been a long way for Fernando Tena's squad that has been erratic at times and splendid in key moments. The Samurai Blue knows Mexico's style of play, as they played a preparation match for London just two weeks ago.
In that game, Japan defeated El Tri by pushing them to make childish mistakes and taking advantage of their lack of order in the midfield.
But there's more history for these squads. It was precisely in Mexico 1968 that they played the bronze-medal match, which Japan won 2-0 at the Estadio Azteca, something very few have accomplished.
It's time for the Mexican players to prove what they are made of and give their country one of the biggest joys in football history.
Improve the Defensive Strategy
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images
Moussa Konaté and Pepe Souaré proved the shortcomings of the Mexican defense. Dárvin Chávez didn't have a good afternoon and was constantly exceeded by Senegal's footballers.
El Tri's left sideline was the weakest link of the squad. Both goals came from that side. The first one came as the result of a cross from Souaré, who left Chávez hanging, to Konate that sent the ball to the net with a header.
The Senegalese tied the match after a corner kick that Souaré sent to the farthest post, where Balde took advantage of the spaces that the defense left and gave his country hope with a superb header.
Mexico can't afford to make this kind of mistakes against Japan, who is fast and skilled and their technique is better than the African team.
Mexico tends to lose their temper when things are not going their way. This has to do with mentality, which many times seems to be hesitant.
When El Tri starts to despair, players start losing the ball and allow the other squad to gain confidence.
This results in adverse situations, like the one we saw today. After Senegal grabbed their first goal, Mexicans were lost, which led to confusion and, lastly, to the tying goal.
Keeping the game and a cool head is a must for next week's game. Japan is a team, and a nation for that matter, that manages to leave their emotions outside the pitch, thus being one of the strongest squads mentally speaking.
Take Advantage of Opportunities
Giovani dos Santos, Marco Fabián and Oribe Peralta are skilled players that know how to attack and unbalance the defense. However, they have wasted a lot of goal opportunities, which later become a burden.
Against Senegal, dos Santos had one of the clearest chances to score. After several wall passes he decided to make the play showier than it already was and sent the ball back to Peralta. The defense rejected the pass and Mexico lost its chance.
Same thing happens when the forwards send the ball away from the goal, even when they are in front of the keeper with no defensive players around them.
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images
It doesn't matter if you are winning by one or by five goals, you have to stay focused and in control of the match.
After scoring the second goal, El Tri started to fool around and gave Senegal a lot of room and opportunity to control the ball.
The African squad didn't hesitate and in seven minutes tied the game, which put Mexico in a tough and compromising situation.
El Tri needs to understand that Japan is not going to give away anything and that their physical condition is wonderful, quite a contract from Senegal's players who were so tired that they were falling down in the overtime.
Set the Game's Pace
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images
Mexico has always had a bad habit: adjust to the rival's pace. It's been clear in all four matches that El Tri has played that they lack of a rhythm of their own.
Instead, the Mexicans let the others play and they give them enough space, which results in controlling the midfield and putting El Tri in distress. This happens because the defense is not in its best moment and they take a lot of time to recover the ball.
When the Mexicans accomplish to get it back, they don't retain it long enough, which means they can't create plays calmly. So instead they depend on a individual effort, wall passes or crosses to have a shot to score.
Neutralize Japan's Attack
David Rogers/Getty Images
Mexico will have two main concerns: Yuki Otsu and Kensuke Nagai. These two can play with eyes wide shut and still manage to complete passes and score goals.
Otsu, an attacking midfielder that plays for Borussia Mönchengladbach, has scored against Spain and Egypt, while Nagai, a born striker, did it in front of Morocco and Egypt.
Japan knows where to be to defeat Mexico. In their friendly match, two weeks ago, they opened the score after 52 seconds. This happened because the defense couldn't complete a series of passes and Hiroshi Kiyotake stole the ball and gave it to Nagai.
The striker crossed the ball, from the right sideline, and Keigo Higashi sent it to the net. Then, at the 86th Nagai made a powerful shot from outside the penalty area to put the score 2-1.
El Tri can't rely on Jesús Corona in every dangerous play; all the lines must do their work and to neutralize the Japanese attack, but the work must start in the midfield.
Unfortunately for Mexico, Héctor Herrera, one of the most accurate and tough midfielders, will miss the match—he has received two yellow cards.
It's time for Carlos Salcido and Jorge Enríquez to step up and make a real difference.