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Daniel

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Loss to Honduras exposes Mexico's weaknesses

http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2007/writers/luis_bueno/06/10/mexico.honduras/index.html

Mexico's 2010 World Cup campaign is in trouble.

After two CONCACAF Gold Cup games, Mexico has shown little to back up coach Hugo Sanchez's goal of winning a World Cup. In fact, games against Cuba and Honduras have shown that Mexico's days of handling regional rivals with ease are long gone.

On Sunday, a 10-man Mexico squad lost to Honduras 2-1 at Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J. The loss was significant for several reasons. It was the first time in Gold Cup history that Mexico lost a group match to a CONCACAF rival. In 2005, Mexico lost to South Africa by the same score in their first tournament match, but never before had a regional rival toppled Mexico this early.

Perhaps more troubling, though, was the way Mexico lost. Even when both sides were at 11 apiece, Honduras' athleticism and aggressiveness gave the Mexicans problems. Carlos Pavon was a load to handle as was Carlos Costly, who scored both goals. In the back, Samuel Caballero was a beast and seemingly got to every ball that went his way.

Mexico, however, is supposed to be the side that dictates the pace and rhythm of matches. Polished on European pitches, Tri defenders are supposed to be the ones clearing balls out of the penalty area. Instead, the Mexican defense was sieve-like in its ability to thwart the Hondurans.

Honduras played with the motivation, desire and winning mentality that Sanchez promised Mexico would show with him at the helm. Honduras went after the three points while Mexico tried for a result.

Worse, Mexico fielded a strong lineup -- perhaps its strongest -- to face Honduras. El Tri had its biggest guns on the field to start the game: Clausura 2007 leading scorer Omar Bravo, Tri hero Cuauhtémoc Blanco and rising star Andres Guardado all led the attack while Stuttgart duo Ricardo Osorio and Pavel Pardo as well as PSV defender Carlos Salcido added veteran experience to the side. The latter trio finished as champions with their respective European clubs.

Missing was defender Rafael Marquez, who was on the bench for Barcelona's 2-2 draw against Espanyol on Saturday. Though Mexico is better with Marquez in the lineup than without, surely the defense could have performed better with their Spanish ace manning the backline.

With Salcido, Osorio and Chivas duo Jonny Magallon and Ramon Morales on the back and the experienced Gerardo Torrado in the defensive midfield, Mexico seemed primed for a strong defensive effort on Sunday. Even with Blanco on the field, Mexico struggled. Blanco, who scored Mexico's only goal on a first-half penalty kick, was sent off four minutes into the second half when he took offense to Caballero's taunt -- a mock kiss to Blanco's ear -- and elbowed the Honduran defender in the stomach.

Honduras exposed what has been Mexico's biggest weakness under Sanchez. In eight games under El Pentapichichi, Mexico has exactly one shutout -- a 4-0 drubbing over an undermanned Iranian squad on June 2. Since Sanchez's first game against the United States on Feb. 7, Mexico has been scored on 10 times.

World Cup veterans such as Americans Landon Donovan and Jimmy Conrad, Ecuadorian Edison Mendez and Paraguayan Roque Santa Cruz have taken turns beating either Oswaldo Sanchez or Guillermo "Memo" Ochoa. Additionally, relative unknowns have also scored against Mexico such as Venezuela's Daniel Arismendi, Cuba's Reyner Alcantara and Honduras' Costly, whose goals Sunday were both skillful displays of talent on his part.

The worst goal of all that Mexico has given up under Sanchez, though, was Oscar Cardozo's strike against El Tri on June 5 in Estadio Azteca, a goal that sunk Mexico to defeat at Azteca for just the second time since 1981.

That loss could have been written off as a fluke, perhaps even a reminder that Mexico need not merely show up to get a result but rather put effort and play with guile and picardia in order to win games and strike fear in rivals. But this Mexican team has so far sleepwalked through both matches, still waiting for an alarm clock to go off and wake the supposed sleeping giant.

Instead, that loss is a fairly accurate reflection of the state of El Tricolor, and not coincidentally mirrors Mexico's other failed Azteca effort of the past 25 years. In 2001, Mexico lost a World Cup qualifier to Costa Rica in Azteca. The squad was led by Enrique Meza, who is considered by many Mexican pundits as El Tri's worst coach of the last decade. Meza's Mexican teams were trademarked by a lack of intensity and did not play with any sense of urgency.

Four days after losing to Costa Rica, Mexico lost to Honduras 3-1 in San Pedro Sula in what was Meza's last game in charge.

Soon after, Javier "Vasco" Aguirre arrived from Pachuca to save El Tri from sinking into the CONCACAF abyss. In his first game in charge, Mexico beat the U.S. 1-0 in a World Cup qualifier. His second match was a 1-0 win over Brazil in Copa America, and El Tri went on to reach the tournament final against Colombia and qualify for the 2002 World Cup.

This time around, though, there is no knight in shining armor waiting for Mexico.

Sanchez is it. This is the man who promised so much and has yet to deliver much of anything. This is Mexico's supposedly strongest team led by a man who is supposed to be unequivocally the best Mexican coach at the moment.

And this is rather worrisome.

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quote:Originally posted by Gian-Luca

Not good results from a best-third place team to go through perspective for Canada.

Not only that, but it looks like the 2nd-place team in Canada's group could play Mexico instead of Panama (as it was looking after the first matches).

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quote:Originally posted by amacpher

Not only that, but it looks like the 2nd-place team in Canada's group could play Mexico instead of Panama (as it was looking after the first matches).

Shades of Gold Cup 2000, where Canada's reward for getting though

the first round was to face Mexico. (And you know what happened.)

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Guest Jeffery S.
quote:Originally posted by ken

Ticos up 1-0 after about 15 minutes on a bouncy free kick. Also according to the announcer Canada's attack was too "schematic" whatever that means.

As if drawn out on a blackboard, as if with lines indicating movement, and then followed by the players. Rigidly adherent to the game plan, unable to improvise or vary when needed. Could get to be mannered (exagerrated application of a theory of style). They use that in Spanish, maybe they are half translating into English.

I am watching Chinese signal Guandong, through www.myp2p.eu, excellent really.

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RE: Too schematic

I felt that when we played Costa Rica, we played free and creative--carefree, really--like we had nothing to lose. Against Guadaloupe we played tight and predictable--mostly--as if we had too much to lose.

Tonight, where we certainly need a result, what sort of team will we see? I hope a hungry, desperate and raw team, one that is agressive going forward and punishing in all aspects of the game. We must force Haitian errors, and we must punish them for making them.

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