England-Mexico: Typical El Tri Result Foreshadows Tough World Cup
After forty five minutes at Wembley, local spectators felt an odd mix of uneasiness and satisfaction.
Fabio Capello's squad had been run ragged throughout the first half, with the Mexican offense handling most of the possession and creating the largest amount of clear-cut chances.
Despite this undeniable truth, England went into half-time with a 2-1 lead, thanks to the great advantage they held over the Latin Americans in set pieces, scoring on Peter Crouch and Ledley King headers.
Over the course of the break, Capello ripped into his pupils, and the result was visible: Glen Johnson's goal in the first few minutes sealed it for the islanders, and they kept Mexico's offense at bay for the rest of the match.
The progression of the match more so than the end result will give fans and analysts alike an idea of what to expect from both these countries when they take on their respective groups in the World Cup.
Mexico's two biggest question marks were laid out for all to see: Who will tend goal and who will score the goals?
Oscar Perez, Mexico's starting goalkeeper in 2002 but out of the national team until late last year, tended goal and fared well against anything that didn't come from a corner kick or set piece.
The reason Perez was even defending Mexico's three posts is because usual first-choice goalkeeper, Guillermo Ochoa, has been struggling of late and lost the choke hold he had over the position in the last two years.
Perez will alternate with Ochoa and Luis Michel until the start of the World Cup, when Javier Aguirre will make his final selection.
On the other end, Manchester United's new signing, Javier Hernández, raised more doubts than eyebrows with his performance at Wembley by giving a lackluster performance against a tough English back line.
Guillermo Franco, who scored El Tri's only goal, also limped off the pitch with an injury. His status is unknown.
Carlos Vela might have sealed his Emirates exit by squandering two clear-cut chances against Robert Green in the first half. Vela's ghastly finishing underscored his weak season at Arsenal.
Finally, Giovani dos Santos was fantastic with the ball at his feet—it was when he decided to let go of it that problems arose.
On the bright side, Mexico's surplus of defenders created an unlikely scenario in which their most decorated fullback, Rafael Márquez, actually played in a holding midfielder role for the majority of the match.
Teams without strong set piece specialists will definitely struggle against Mexico's solid defenders, led by PSV Eindhoven strongman Francisco Rodríguez. Also of note is AZ Alkmaar's Héctor Moreno, who did not appear in this match.
England, on the other hand, have also struggled with their goalkeeper situation, but both Green and Joe Hart were solid.
While the big hitters such as Wayne Rooney, Steven Gerrard, and Theo Walcott were generally held at bay, it was the unheralded fringe men vying for a spot in England's starting eleven who provided fireworks.
However, Mexico asked serious questions of England's midfield and back line. Ledley King and Glen Johnson both scored, but they struggled against dos Santos and Vela for long stretches.
If today's game was any indication, Leighton Baines will ride the pine in South Africa.
All things considered, the story of the game is greatly linked to its end result. England has enough talent, luck, and experience to fight through tough games they don't dominate and parlay them into victories.
El Tri, on the other hand, lives and dies with a traditional phrase of Mexican football: "Jugamos como nunca, y perdimos como siempre."
Translation? They played like never before. They lost like always.
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