Mexico gained a must-win recreation on the 2021 Olympics and did it with the swagger of a contender, beating South Africa 3-0 to shut out the group stage, reserving a spot within the quarterfinals towards South Korea on Saturday.
There’s an enormous caveat to go along with the general constructive impression: The win got here towards a hapless South Africa crew that was poor at set items and poor defensively, with moments of bickering and finger pointing among the many gamers. The South Africans hardly ever ever got here near being as goal-dangerous as they have been within the earlier outing towards France, a match throughout which they held a 3-2 lead at one level.
However South Africa had a motivated, cohesive Mexican crew in entrance of it. Regardless of lacking starters as a consequence of suspension (Johan Vasquez) and damage (Erick Aguirre), and likewise resting their high attacking star (Diego Lainez got here on as a 13-minute sub), the Mexicans didn’t skip a beat and logged an environment friendly, skilled efficiency. If El Tri was feeling any strain in its remaining group recreation, it positive wasn’t displaying it.
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Uriel Antuna crammed in for Lainez and performed a sensible recreation down the suitable wing, serving up the ball that led to the primary purpose. The South African protection did its half on the second purpose (quick ‘keeper punch and backward header by a defender in his personal field) and ahead Henry Martin, arguably Mexico’s greatest participant on the sphere, began and completed the transfer for the third purpose.
The one blemish was the crimson card to midfielder Carlos “Charly” Rodriguez (beneath) for denial of an apparent goal-scoring alternative within the 66th minute, when he tripped up a South African attacker breaking free on purpose with the rating at 3-0. He’ll be compelled to sit down out the quarterfinal, which represents a major loss for Mexico.
Rodriguez is extraordinarily beneficial to Mexico’s functioning — senior squad included — for the best way he connects the crew from again to entrance along with his passing, whereas additionally monitoring again to problem and break up performs by the opposition. His skill to maintain possession and make good selections beneath strain would have been useful towards a urgent crew just like the Koreans.
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His possible substitute towards South Korea, FC Juarez midfielder Joaquin Esquivel, is extra defensive-minded and can absolutely sit again because the deepest, holding midfielder, liberating up the influential Luis Romo to push greater up the sphere. However the important thing to serving to the build-up misplaced by Charly’s absence is Sebastian Cordova, who can not disguise on this subsequent recreation. He’s going to want to roam and get on the ball loads if Mexico are to have success.
In the meantime, the Aguirre damage contingency at left again — having Jorge Sanchez change flanks and handing Vladimir Lorona proper again duties — labored out advantageous for the second recreation in a row, in case Aguirre remains to be out come Saturday. And Jesus Angulo performed nicely at left middle again (after which at left again) rather than the suspended Vasquez. Mexico has depth.
South Korea up subsequent
The Mexican aspect is acquainted with South Korea: Seven members of the present Mexican Olympic roster have been a part of the senior squad that beat its South Korean counterpart 3-2 in a November 2020 pleasant in Austria. However there have been additionally 4 present South Korean Olympians who have been a part of that match.
Their quarterfinal showdown ought to show the newest in a collection of tight contests between these two nations over time. Since 2000, the senior males’s sides have confronted off six occasions, with 4 of these matches determined by a purpose and one other ending in a 0-0 draw that went to penalty kicks on the 2002 CONCACAF Gold Cup. Mexico has the slight edge (3-2-1 file), though the Koreans gained the Gold Cup PK shootout.
South Korea completed tops in Group B, the weakest on the Olympics. They misplaced to New Zealand of their opener after which benefited from early crimson playing cards proven to Romania and Honduras to place a complete of 10 objectives previous these groups (together with three penalty kicks towards Honduras). It’s a beatable crew, nevertheless it’s going to take a mistake-free effort.
Path to a medal
If Mexico can get by South Korea, it might assure El Tri performs for a medal and it might arrange a mouth-watering semifinal conflict with the final gold medal winners, Brazil.
The Mexican crew all the time manages to lift its recreation when it sees the Verde-Amarela on the opposite aspect. Mexico famously beat a Brazil crew that featured Neymar, Thiago Silva and Hulk within the 2012 Olympic gold medal match. This model of Mexico’s Olympic crew has many similarities to the best way its 2012 version was constructed from again to entrance.
Given El Tri’s pedigree, it would positively be thought-about a disappointment for its run to someway fall quick within the quarterfinals. The dangling carrot of probably enjoying Brazil within the semifinals ought to be loads of motivation to make sure they don’t look previous the Koreans.