Mexico vs Guatemala in the Gold Cup…

by Luis Eduardo Flores

Just three days ago, Mexico unleashed an expected harsh beating over the Caribbean Lions. Whereas the 2nd group favorite; “La Azul y Blanco” lost embarrassingly to the “Soca Warriors”. Given the results of those two games, we expected Mexico to do the same to Guatemala. To everyone’s surprise, Mexico had to settle for a 0-0 draw.

The trashing that Mexico gave to Cuba really didn’t really give Mexico momentum.

Their win over Cuba was another team that they beat; a team that has no historical significance to Mexico.

The last time Mexico faced Guatemala in the Gold Cup was back in the 2011 semi-final. Mexico emerged victorious with a 2-1 victory. Just like their 2011 encounter, Guatemala showed consistent resiliency.

In this game, Guatemala was prepared for the worst. Guatemala changed from their standard 3-4-3 formation to a 5-3-2 formation. This was completely understandable. The fact that Guatemala fell to 3-1 to Trinidad & Tobago and Mexico’s clean up of Cuba meant that Guatemala was looking to play more of a defensive game against the CONCACAF giants; and it paid off. Coach Miguel Herrera (El Piojo) used his 4-4-2 formation, since it still continues to work; even without Javier Hernandez.

Mexico started the game looking for an instant victory over the weak Guatemala team. Right after kickoff, “El Gaito” Vasquez won a freekick due to a foul by Jorge Aparicio. Off the free kick, Mexico themselves committed a foul. Brandon de Leon took the free kick from Guatemala’s defensive half, but then Jose Contreras committed a foul and granted Mexico another free kick.

Carlos Vela took the free kick from Mexico’s defensive half. Oribe Peralta received possession and provided Andres Guardado with the assist. Guardado’s shot missed and Ruben Morales conceded a corner kick for Mexico. Off the corner kick, Hector Herrera attempts a right footed shot from the right side, but the shot was blocked.

At the 17th minute, Jonathan do Santos stepped up to score. His right footed shot from outside the box is saved in the top right corner. A huge portion consisted on continuous fouls on behalf of Guatemala in their defensive half.

Mexico’s biggest chance to score came at the 34th minute. Peralta drew out two defenders before delivering a cross to Guardado. Guardado’s volley was on target, but the Guatemalan goalkeeper managed to tip the ball over the bar.

During the 2nd half of the game, what we saw was the same as the 1st half. Mexico trying it’s best to break the Guatemalan defense, Guatemalan fouls, and Memo Ochoa taking another game-long break.

For Mexico, they also showed some costly mistakes. Offensively, there was some miscommunication between Paul Aguilar and Hector Herrera. There was also several times in which Mexico was showing some really sloppy passing. Mistakes like that open the door for a counter-attack. Guatemala wasn’t successful with their counter attacks, but that was no excuse for Mexico’s sloppiness. Even with the watertight Guatemalan defense, it was smart for Mexico not to draw out its defenders into the midfield and the midfielders out with the forwards.

What did we just see? Guatemala held its own against Mexico for 90 plus minutes. Guatemala demonstrated the effectiveness of the 5-3-2 formation. With five defenders, Carlos Vela and Oribe Peralta were unable to fully penetrate the five man defensive wall.

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Had Hernandez played this game, the result might have been different; but nothing too big. Here’s why. We know that Hernandez is more of a “poacher” and a 2nd half sub. If either Vela or Peralta had been subbed out for Hernandez, the obstacle still would be the same; breaking down the Guatemalan defense. Hernandez is not known for dribbling past defenders to create chances or score.

Guatemala’s defense was superb, but it came with its flaws. Guatemala committed 23 fouls; the majority by their defenders. This cost them one player; Jose Contreros (red card for fouling Vela). Had Guatemala chosen to play an offensive game, they were undoubtedly going to lose this game. With a weak passing accuracy of 53.8%, two successful crosses, and 3 shots (0% accuracy), were they really capable of winning? Not likely.

Mexico’s next task is Trinidad & Tobago. Mexico has no reason to lose or draw this game. We expect a 3-0 win, at the very least.

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Photo: sports.yahoo.com , zimbio.com.

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