Mexico kicked off a busy summer with a 2-2 draw against Nigeria in Houston on Friday night. Both goals for “El Tri” were scored by Javier Hernandez, who has now scored 32 goals for the Mexican National Team.
Mexico played with 10 men after the 28th minute on a controversial penalty that saw Pablo Barrera sent off for handling the ball and denying an obvious goal scoring opportunity.
Despite having drawn another game, Mexico was able to answer two major questions I had about the team before World Cup Qualifying matches in the next two weeks. In addition, the team showed great aptitude, composure and desire throughout the game.
This was by far has been the best game Mexico has had with creating scoring opportunities and being effective in the final third. From the outset, Mexico had better passes that set up a shot and or forced Nigeria to make a diving tackle in order to deflect a shot or pass out of play. Javier Hernandez’s first goal was a result of a fine pass from Pablo Barrera.
In the second half, after having had to adjust to playing with 10 men, Mexico pressed ahead and continued to be effective in the final third. The second goal was a result of a play where a Gerardo Flores pass started a sequence that saw Hernandez tap in for the goal.
In addition to being more effective in the final third, Mexico also proved to be tactically adept during the game. Jose Manuel De La Torre had his starting 11 play a 4-4-1-1 formation where Hernandez was played as a a withdrawn striker playing closer to the wing, in much the same way he does with Manchester United.
This left Aldo De Nigris as the central forward and allowed room for Barrera to make runs into the penalty area. This worked as Hernandez made effective runs to goal and Barrera had several dangerous runs before he was sent-off.
In the second half, having had time to adjust, De La Torre made three player substitutions and as a result, left his team tactically playing 3-4-1-1 with the ball and 4-3-1-1 without it. The introduction of Flores and Hiram Mier allowed for the tactical flexibility as Mier took over as the third central defender and Flores took over the role vacated by Barrera.
This allowed De La Torre to maintain defensive solidity with his defenders but also gave him the opportunity to attack using his wide midfielders to create scoring chances. As a result, Mexico looked just as dangerous when they had 11 players.
With three World Cup Qualifiers coming up in the next two weeks, the first of which is on Tuesday against Jamaica in Kingston, Mexico can take some positive momentum gained from the game on Friday night with them.