Coming into the third and final round of group stage games at the FIFA U-20 World Cup being played in Turkey, México needed to win and win by a decidable margin in order to advance into the Round of Sixteen.
México took care of business during its game as it defeated Mali 4-1 with one of the goals being scored by rumored Borussia Dortmund target Jesus Corona. Several hours later, their passage into the next round as one of the four best third place teams in group play was confirmed as fellow CONCACAF brethren El Salvador lost to favorites Colombia 3-0, and hosts Turkey beat Australia 2-1.
Coming into their final group stage game, México had lost its first two games, 2-1 to Greece and 1-0 to Paraguay. In their first game against Greece, México played relatively well with their downfall being it failed to convert scoring chances, while in their game against Paraguay, México looked disjointed in attack and had several defensive errors which were unacceptable for that level of play.
Heading into the game against Mali, coach Sergio Almaguer made a few bold tactical decisions that paid off. The tactical decisions made by Almaguer were to bench defender and team captain Antonio Briseno and move Corona to the wing, his more natural position. These two moves made a noticeable difference as México’s attack was much more fluid and created more scoring chances than it did in its previous game.
The benching of Briseno put the defense on alert and the back four responded by playing with more confidence and composure on the ball during the game. In addition, there was better communication with goalkeeper Richard Sanchez who was able to avoid any miscues and bad errors when compared to their game against Paraguay.
Depending on results from tomorrow’s final round of group stage games, México will play either Spain next Tuesday or Portugal on Wednesday in the Round of Sixteen. If they play Spain, they will be clear underdogs and stand a good chance of seeing a disappointing end to the tournament given the expectations of a deep run.
If the rival happens to be Portugal, then the chance to achieve their expectations greatly improve in a game where they will still be underdogs, but have a much more viable chance to win and advance.