Group A in the CONCACAF 2018 World Cup qualifying process completely belongs to Mexico. That was evident once again on Tuesday when El Tri handled Canada with relative ease at Estadio Azteca, 2-0.
Fox Soccer reacted to the game:
Andres Guardado and Jesus Corona both scored in the first half for Mexico, and the team put it in cruise control for the final 45 minutes.
Tuesday's result comes after Mexico beat Canada on Friday in Vancouver to the tune of 3-0. Daniel Squizzato of MLSSoccer.com called Mexico "the class of Group A" and noted they still have not lost a contest in the semi-final round of qualifying.
That means Canada, Honduras and El Salvador are left battling for the No. 2 spot in the group since the top two finishers advance to the next round. Canada came into Tuesday's game after losing their last three World Cup qualifiers in Estadio Azteca by a combined tally of 10-0, so they didn't have much hope.
Still, they will have opportunities to beat Honduras and El Salvador in head-to-head matches, which would help erase Tuesday's loss.
Mexico wasted little time looking like the superior team in the early going Tuesday, even though there weren't any goals in the opening minutes. ESPN FC Mexico described a scene with El Tri controlling the initial flow:
10'— ESPN FC Mexico (@ESPNFCtri) March 30, 2016
Mexico 0-0 Canada
El Tri with plenty of possession and pressure in the early moments of this match.
The pressure eventually paid off because Mexico earned a penalty kick less than 17 minutes into the game. Guardado took advantage and buried the subsequent shot in the back of the net. Cesar Hernandez of ESPN FC reacted to the opening goal:
"Hello, yes, soccer store. I would like 58 Mexico jerseys with Guardado's name on them."— Cesar Hernandez (@cesarhfutbol) March 30, 2016
Tom Marshall of ESPN FC said the shot was "never in doubt."
To Canada's credit, they kept the deficit at 1-0 throughout the middle portion of the first half and avoided a back-breaking goal. The Mexican Soccer Show pointed to missed chances from the Mexican side as something El Tri needed to improve moving forward:
'27 Mexico still with just a one goal lead. Need to make more of their opportunities.— Mexican Soccer Show (@MexSoccerShow) March 30, 2016
While the Canadian defense was holding up, the offense wasn't generating much on the other side, as Wiso Vazquez of the Mexican Soccer Show and ESPN Deportes radio 710 am realized:
Canada not pressuring Mexico on the salida. Waiting for Mex to make a mistake.— Wiso (@WisoVazquez) March 30, 2016
Without much attacking on the offensive end, the Canadian defense finally broke again in stoppage time of the first half. Corona took a deflected cross, danced a bit in the box and drilled the ball into the corner of the net to give Mexico a 2-0 advantage. Hernandez said, "That was poetic from Tecatito. What a beauty."
Marshall described the action and the ease with which Mexico have handled Group A:
Goooool Mexico. Tecatito with a fine bit of skill and finish. El Tri walking to the Hex. Mexico 2-0 Canada.— Tom Marshall (@mexicoworldcup) March 30, 2016
Soccer writer Andrea Canales responded to the second goal of the game:
Wow, what a nice goal there for Mexico. They needed that. Can't get swagger back in Azteca with just a PK goal.— Andrea Canales (@soccercanales) March 30, 2016
Mexico came out of the locker rooms in the second half with much of the same pressure and dominating play. While they didn't score during their numerous opportunities, Vazquez had some fun at Canada's expense given the tone of the game:
Look, Canada can play in Mexico's half.— Wiso (@WisoVazquez) March 30, 2016
The result felt inevitable throughout the second half, and the crowd turned their attention to a potential substitution, via Nayib Moran of ESPN FC:
Crowd already chanting, "Chicharo, Chicharo, Chicharo."— Nayib Morán (@nayibmoran) March 30, 2016
The supporters got their wish when Chicharito entered the game, but he didn't score the goal so many were looking for in the second half. Vazquez pointed to one potential reason why:
Not sure if Chicharito is 100%, definitely looks odd stepping on the field— Wiso (@WisoVazquez) March 30, 2016
The two teams largely played out the string in a rather uneventful home stretch. Hernandez responded to the lack of electrifying action:
Mexico, I love you, but this game is starting to become a bit dull.— Cesar Hernandez (@cesarhfutbol) March 30, 2016
The end of the game may have been somewhat lackluster, but Mexico and their fans will gladly take a straightforward win over a nerve-wracking loss. That is exactly what they got on Tuesday against Canada with the 2-0 victory.
Mexico is now a perfect 4-0 in the semi-final qualifying round and will breeze through into the Hexagonal Round without any stress.
However, Squizzato said Tuesday's contest was an opportunity to prepare for the Copa America Centenario in June, when Mexico will play Jamaica, Uruguay and Venezuela. If the defense looks like it did against Canada and the offense takes advantage of a couple of more scoring chances, El Tri will be a difficult out in those showdowns as well.
As for Canada, they play two more games in this qualifying stage, with both games in September. They face off with Honduras and El Salvador on Sept. 2 and 6, respectively, in head-to-head opportunities against the teams they are battling with for position behind Mexico.
Only two teams advance in Group A, so those games will carry much more weight for the Canadian side since Mexico is already moving on.
Despite the win and a solid performance that included a goal, “Guardado reiterated after the game that the team will grow and improve with time. Five consecutive wins in the [Juan Carlos] Osorio era, enough said,” per Moran.
Mexico manager Osorio reiterated that point, per Marshall, “We have a lot to improve and with time we will do it.”
As for Canada, midfielder Nik Ledgerwood reflected on the loss, per Gavin Day of Sportsnet.ca:
We knew it was going to be hard coming down here. We knew it was going to be a grind.
Unfortunately, we conceded that second goal in the first half. I think if we kept it tight, maybe something could have happened in the second half. I think the boys did extremely well tonight. We kept our shape well. That was our main goal going into it.
Canada did remain within striking distance for most of the match and will look to build on that moving forward. If they handle their next two opponents in the qualifying stage, Tuesday’s loss will be a distant memory.