Nine years after Mexico won its first gold medal in men’s football, El Tri seems to have what it takes to top the Olympic podium once more. The Mexican side showed they are ready to compete, opening the 2021 Olympic tournament with a convincing 4-1 win over France, one of the favorites for the tournament.
The Mexicans outperformed France in every sector of the pitch and that was reflected in their deficit thanks to four goals in the second half from four different goalscorers: Alexis Vega, Sebastian Cordova, Uriel Antuna and Eduardo Aguirre.
“We are a talented team,” said goalkeeper and captain Guillermo “Memo” Ochoa, “players of great quality, with a hunger to win, to shine and to transcend. Combine this with players who have played for the senior national team, and it shows when you have to make decisions in a game like this – a tackle, a pass or a shot. And today we did very well.”
There was little not to like about Mexico’s performance, which showed few weaknesses and illustrated all the reasons why they will once again compete for the Olympic title:
Game breakers in green
France may have had the big name on the pitch as forward Andre-Pierre Gignac, but Mexico’s forwards were the ones who always looked like they could decide the game. And they all did.
Vega on the left and fellow winger Diego Lainez on the right were electric with the ball at their feet, taking on defenders one-on-one and heading straight for goal. And every time they went to the French defense, they caused havoc. With teammate Henry Martin dutifully taking the center stage, Vega and Lainez had a willing partner who occupied defenders and opened up space for them.
Vega looks like he’s in the best shape of his career, and when he’s playing with the kind of fire he showed against France, he’s hard to contain. Meanwhile, Lainez was the smartest player on the pitch, scoring the first goal on one of his many penetrating runs into the penalty area. His classy cross provided an inviting ball that Vega shot into the penalty area to go home.
When you include attacking midfielder Cordova in this attacking mix – he showed his football IQ on his well-taken goal in the penalty area – it’s easy to see why all these players are already part of the senior Mexican national team under head coach Gerardo “El Tata”. ” Martin.
Mexico is deep
You know it really clicks when two players come off the bench and score too. Mexico’s Olympic coach Jaime Lozano was rewarded for his decision to bring in offensive reinforcements despite having a lead. Right winger Antuna (72nd minute) and striker Eduardo Aguirre (88th minute) came in turn and they helped seal the deal.
Antuna’s speed becomes a real weapon of the bank in this tournament. He used it to good effect on Mexico’s third goal, when he came in for Lainez. First he backed up his defender and then cut in before firing a low, driven shot off the post. It came with 10 minutes left to play and helped put the game out of reach for France.
And Aguirre is a less experienced version of Henry Martin, with arguably a better nose for the target. He showed it on his attack, Mexico’s fourth, driving the ball from a tight angle past the keeper to the nearest post. Expect him to get the start in one of the group matches to give Martin a breather for the single-elimination knockout rounds.
No weak links in defense either
As if it wasn’t enough that Mexico had the best attacking talent on the field, the players on the backline also outperformed their opponents.
Right-back Jorge Sanchez is a multi-million dollar transfer material with the combination of reach, power and speed. France rarely bothered to attack along its flank.
While it certainly helped that they had experience playing against Gignac in the Liga MX in Mexico, the central defenders – Cesar “Cachorro” Montes and Johan Vasquez – were in control. The only real misstep was Montes’ error of judgment on the slide-tackle in his own penalty area that led to France’s penalty.
Romo is the glue man
His name does not appear in the box score this time, but central midfielder Luis Romo is the main player of this Mexico team. La Liga club Getafe made a transfer attempt for him but his Mexican club Cruz Azul have reportedly turned it down and they may be able to get new bidders if a big Olympic run lies ahead for Mexico.
Romo is seemingly all over the field, and that’s because he has such a great feel for the game. He brings balance to his team, supports the attack or protects the back line, and whatever he chooses, it is generally the right decision. In addition, he runs for two players, which gives him a huge presence on the field.
Mexico is a well-oiled machine
The players know each other well, thanks in part to previous camps under senior Mexico manager Tata Martino. That fame was evident against France, a team that was put together just for this tournament and will never play together again.
Mexico was the cohesive side and it showed in their passage and how they moved away from each other, especially in the transition. All players have clear roles and they play them well. Left-back Erick Aguirre, for example, was a home defender and didn’t put too much emphasis on the attacking side, especially when Sanchez looted on the right. And that worked out fine.
This spirit was most evident in the moments after their goals, when the Mexicans sent a message to France that they would not let them in the game again: El Tri hit the ball with personality and kept it away from the French. It was a flex move from a team that knows it’s right.
Mexico looks like a complete team: they can score, they can defend and they can manage and control games. Outside of Brazil, there doesn’t seem to be another country they should be afraid of the rest of the way, especially the way El Tri handled France.