Coming into Friday night’s World Cup Qualifier at home against Honduras, Mexico were a team who were lost, having not played their best or even any semblance of good soccer so far in this final round of CONCACAF World Cup Qualifying. Mexico had only lost one World Cup Qualifier in it’s history at home at the Estadio Azteca and that was a 2-1 loss to Costa Rica back in 2001. Well, after Friday night, Honduras became the second team ever to pull off an ‘Aztecazo’ beating Mexico 2-1 and thus putting Mexico’s hopes of qualifying to the World Cup in serious jeopardy.
Entering the game, Mexico were third with eight points while Honduras were fourth one point back of Mexico. Honduras made it clear before the game that they were going to sit back, play a compact 4-5-1 formation and look to counter and score on mistakes made by Mexico. Mexico coach Jose Manuel ‘Chepo’ De La Torre decided to field the same starting eleven which beat the Ivory Coast 4-1 in a friendly back on August 14. Early on this decision looked to be the correct one as Mexico jumped out to a 1-0 lead thanks to Giovani Dos Santos breaking on a counter and serving a lovely pass to Oribe Peralta who tapped in the opener six minutes in.
After the fast start, Mexico would fall back and let its foot off the accelerator; this would come back to hurt them in the second half. At halftime, Honduras coach Luis Fernando Suarez brought on Jerry Bengston as a substitute and this modification turned out to be the best tactical move made all game as it allowed Honduras to switch to a 4-1-4-1 formation and give them a more natural winger in the second line of four. It would be Bengston who would score the equalizer to give Honduras at the moment a 1-1 draw and put pressure on Mexico at it’s own home. As Mexico were reeling, another defensive error from the ‘El Tri’ defense was capitalized by Carlos Costly who put Honduras up 2-1, three minutes after they had drawn level.
After that, Mexico were a team who were bereft of any ideas in attack despite coming close on two occasions to drawing the game at 2-2. Even with Jerry Bengston missing a sure fire goal to make it 3-1, Honduras, pulled off the Azrecazo and have now condemned Mexico to suffering here in it’s last three qualifiers as after their loss and other results, they sit fourth, which means playing a two-legged playoff against New Zealand.
Whether or not “Chepo” De La Torre is fired or resigns by Tuesday at the time of this being written is yet to be seen but what is clear is that despite him being given a reprieve after a disastrous Gold Cup display, he is no longer the coach that can or should lead Mexico to try and qualify for the World Cup. It was clear once Honduras tied the game up, the same issues with Chepo as coach of Mexico in 2013, came back to haunt and hurt the team.
Add to the fact that Carlos Vela and Guillermo Ochoa have refused and or have not wanted to come play, a change of coach is badly needed for ‘El Tri’ in order to give themselves a chance to save face and qualify to Brazil. Mexico will head to Columbus on Tuesday to face the United States in a game where they might have a new coach but will also be a team, down in the dumps in terms of confidence and self-belief.