Mexico’s senior and olympic soccer squads both disappoint
Mexico’s U-24 team can only aspire to a bronze medal now in Tokyo, and the senior squad lost to the U.S. in the Gold Cup final.
Mexico wanted to have two competitive sides for the two tournaments they were going to participate in this Summer.
With them being the giant in North America and winning the most Gold Cup titles — eight in total, they were expected to be crowned champions again at this year’s edition.
The road to a ninth title seemed even more clear after the USMNT fielded none of their stars playing for top teams in Europe, like Chelsea’s Christian Pulisic or FC Barcelona’s Sergiño Dest.
“El Tri” did have to sacrifice bringing some of their starting 11 to field a strong side for their Olympic under-24 team that hoped to obtain their second gold medal in men’s soccer.
Despite this, Mexico practically had most of its stars, but it was not enough to beat the U.S. in Sunday’s final in Las Vegas.
They dominated possession and had more chances to score, but thanks to the heroic efforts by America’s goalkeeper and the tournament’s revelation, Matt Turner, the game ended in a 0-0 draw.
Both teams went into extra time and minutes before the game would have gone to a penalty shootout, the U.S. capitalized off a set piece and defender Miles Robinson headed past the Mexican goalkeeper.
This gave the U.S. its seventh Gold Cup title and their coach, Gregg Berhalter, was able avenge his defeat to “El Tri” in the 2019 final.
Gerardo Martino, Mexico’s senior team manager, has now lost two finals to the U.S. this year. The first one came in June when they were runners-up in the CONCACAF Nations League Final, but the game did feature better-known American players.
He will not have to worry about the safety of his job since he is the manager the Mexican federation trusts to complete the cycle to the 2022 World Cup in Qatar. If they suffer a tough start in World Cup qualifying matches, which begin in September, then Martino may be replaced.
Unpopular coach Juan Carlos Osorio kept his job after the 7-0 loss to Chile in the 2016 Copa America Centenario and he took Mexico to the 2018 World Cup in Russia. With the Colombian strategist, Mexico had one of their best performances in World Cup qualifying, finishing first with 21 points after 10 games.
One factor that may have led to Mexico’s disappointing performance in the Gold Cup was the lack of leaders out on the pitch.
Guillermo Ochoa has been their first team goalie for the last two World Cups, but he was chosen for the Olympic Squad as one of the three overage players each country is allowed to bring.
The national team captain, Andrés Guardado, missed out on the Gold Cup because he sustained a muscular injury in training, less than two weeks before the start of the tournament. The center midfielder has made over 160 appearances for “El Tri” with his debut coming in 2005.
Mexico’s Hirving Lozano has become his country’s newest icon after making his mark on the Dutch and Italian leagues, but he also received a head injury in Mexico’s Gold Cup debut against Trinidad & Tobago.
Center-back Hector Moreno has also been an ever present figure in the Mexican defensive line, but participated few times throughout the tournament because of an injury he was recovering from. He captained the team in the final, but was subbed out in the first half after experiencing muscular discomfort in his right leg.
Even if “El Tri” was missing key voices in the dressing room, they arguably had enough quality on the pitch to cruise to a ninth championship.
Losing two back-to-back finals to the USMNT creates many questions around whether or not Mexico has lost its place as the “King” of CONCACAF.
“We went from not qualifying to a World Cup to all of sudden beating Mexico in two finals in the span of 40 days. One with an A-team and one with a C-teams against their A-team. So this rivalry is definitely back,” former U.S. striker Herculez Gomez told ESPN.
The two North American giants will meet again in Cincinnati, OH on November 12 for a 2022 World Cup qualifier.
Mexico was also one of the favorites to win the men’s soccer competition in the Tokyo Olympics, but they can now only aspire to bronze at the games after bowing out to 2016 champions Brazil.
Both teams met in the final match of the 2012 London Olympics and Mexico surprised viewers by winning their first gold medal in the competition and denying Brazil of the same.
“La Seleção” got their revenge on Tuesday morning after they knocked “El Tri” out of the games in the semi finals. They will now face Spain in the final after they beat the host nation, Japan.
The match went to a penalty shootout after both sides failed to score after 120 minutes.
With Mexico missing their first three penalties, Brazil advanced 4-1 in the shootout. Ochoa guessed the right way in all of Brazil’s strikes and got a hand to two of them, but he still could not stop any of them from finding the back of the net.
Legendary FC Barcelona right-back Dani Alves was one Brazil’s overage players at the tournament as well as the side’s captain. He commented on the clash with Mexico after the game.
“Today we had a very hard day of work because of the opponent's proposal, because they fight very well in matches, but I think we deserve to be in the final,” he said.
The Mexican players can hold their heads up high knowing they challenged Brazil until the end and both teams were equally matched.
They will now compete with Japan for a bronze medal, but the two already met in the group stage of the tournament, and the host nation defeated Mexico 2-1.
Even if as a collective they did not triumph in the Olympic tournament, many individuals seem like they might move onto better things at the end of the games.
Head coach Jaime Lozano has been considered by the Japanese Football Federation to be its new manager.
Lozano would not be the first Mexican to coach the “Samurai Blue,” since former Mexico National Team player and manager Javier Aguirre led them for nearly seven months between 2014 and 2015.
His assistant manager throughout the Olympics was Ryota Nishimura, a Japanese born coach who started his career in the Liga MX.
Forward Alexis Vega made four goal contributions and started in all of Mexico’s five games at the tournament. The 23 year-old’s performances have caught the eye of FC Porto, one of the Portuguese league's most successful clubs.
Jorge Sanchez was one of the more experienced youngsters in “El Tri’s” U-24 team since he has made many many appearances for the senior squad and he is expected to be their starting right-back for the 2022 World Cup.
This summer has opened the possibility of a potential move to the Premier League with Everton and Tottenham Hotspurs both interested in his services.
Mexico’s bronze medal match against Japan will take place on Friday August 6 and the players will fight to be the third country to stand on the podium for the men’s soccer tournament.
If they lose to Japan again then this will truly be a Summer to forget for Mexican soccer fans.