Key Tactical Decisions Mexico Must Make Ahead of World Cup Clash with Croatia
Miguel Herrera managed to change Mexico's attitude and play style radically, but it's not over yet. El Tri are about to face one of the toughest games in their World Cup history against Croatia.
Herrera's squad has functioned better than expected. Mexico have been structured, smooth and well-communicated in every line.
Herrera knows that Croatia need to win the game or they'll pack their things and go home. He has a tough clash ahead, and he needs to figure out several things, from the starting XI to the footballers who could come in as subs.
Let's take a look.
Mexico have been playing with a 5-3-2 line, but it looks more like a 3-5-2.
The thing with Herrera's system is that it is very flexible and allows the left-back and right-back to run all the way to the goal line.
It has worked so far because El Tri have not faced a squad that dominates the midfield like Croatia or that uses the flanks to create plays on a regular basis.
Miguel Layun and Paul Aguilar need to be focused and fast to return to their initial position as soon as possible.
Herrera needs to define Layun and Aguilar's degree of participation.
The Starting XI
Miguel Herrera should go with the same starting XI he has used since El Tri's debut.
It's not just about the way they have performed—it also has to do with confidence. The 11 men who have represented El Tri have done a fine job, and they should be rewarded and trusted for that.
Guillermo Ochoa was splendid against Brazil, the centre-backs have managed to stay strong, the midfielders have kept the ball and created spaces and the forwards have already proven to be dangerous.
Herrera shouldn't take his chances in a crucial game like the one that's coming.
Paul Aguilar and Jose Juan Vazquez were booked against Brazil, while Hector Moreno picked up a yellow card in the opening match.
Aguilar has been an undisputed starter since Miguel Herrera took over in 2013. Vazquez has managed to keep the midfield tight, while Moreno has not only been atop his defending duties ,he has also been the perfect commander to start counter-attacks.
The clash against Croatia will be very physical; Herrera must take this into consideration, because if any of these three are booked again they'll miss the round of 16 if Mexico qualifies.
Rafael Marquez as a Centre-Back or a Libero?
Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic will be fierce through the center of the pitch.
Jose Juan Vazquez will have his hands full, which is where Rafael Marquez can come in handy.
The Leon footballer knows how to play in front of the other two centre-backs, which turns him into a sweeper. This means he can work as a filter in case the rivals manage to breach the midfield.
For this game, Marquez can be even more valuable in this position.
Marco Fabian and Javier Hernandez have played in both games as subs, while Carlos Salcido and Raul Jimenez have had activity in one.
Fabian has been the one who has worked best thanks to his ball possession and speed. He can play as an attacking midfielder, a left midfielder or even in the center of the pitch when Hector Herrera or Andres Guardado are tired.
Hernandez has come in for Oribe Peralta, but he has yet to score. Raul Jimenez played instead of Giovani dos Santos against Brazil but came in at a whole different pace.
Miguel Herrera needs to be very intelligent because with Paul Aguilar, Hector Moreno and Jose Juan Vazquez booked, he might need to take them out sooner than expected to avoid another yellow card.
The attacking zone has not been very sharp, and Alan Pulido could be a great asset in that area.