Mexico is cruising in World Cup qualification and averages more than 1.5 goals per game over the nine matches played so far. A win in San Pedro Sula would mark this as the most successful Hexagonal round ever, topping Costa Rica’s 23 points prior to the 2002 tournament.
The strongest part of the team is the attack. That much was obvious in Russia where El Tri found the back of the net in each of their Confederations Cup contests but struggled to keep opponents from doing the same. Even coming off a win in which it scored three goals, though, the Mexico national team has something basic to work on up front — finishing.
Maybe it’s not even an issue. When El Tri have faced teams that look to play a more active brand of soccer — that is to say teams that don’t sit back and bunker like many opponents they meet in CONCACAF — they have found goals. The Confederations Cup and both matches against Costa Rica during the Hex are evidence of that. But in CONCACAF it’s become a script that repeats itself with Mexico controlling the contest, creating chances from the back or on the wings, and ultimately failing to find the back of the net.
“It’s become a theme we’ve discussed and mentioned in previous news conferences that the team has consistency and is efficient getting into the final third, but we’re lacking efficiency, most of all, in trying to finish our chances to score the first time,” Mexico boss Juan Carlos Osorio said after Friday’s 3-1 victory over Trinidad and Tobago.
It’s a bit of a puzzle how a team with so many players noted for their finishing is struggling to kill off chances.
Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez is known for his abilities in the box, with many of his struggles at the club level put down to a lack of service or this season playing out wide instead of outside the box. His goal Friday against Trinidad and Tobago was his second of the Hex and third of thie World Cup qualification cycle. Watch Hernandez play with Mexico, and you’ll see he’s responsible for more than simply knocking the ball into the goal. The 29-year-old regularly drops back to receive the ball from the center backs near the center circle.
Still, the country’s all-time leading scorer is undoubtedly the best finisher Mexico has and needs to be more effective in front of goal. It’s not only Chicharito having trouble though. Javier Aquino had two opportunities in front of the Soca Warriors’ goal and sent both off target. Javier “Tecatito” Corona had five efforts, seeing two saved by goalkeeper Adrian Foncette. Oribe Peralta only has seen 154 minutes this cycle but hasn’t found the back of the net.
Un buen torito para arrancar la práctica #PasiónyOrgullo pic.twitter.com/oZ8JN5vLEo
— Selección Nacional (@miseleccionmx) October 9, 2017
Finishing is tough to solve because it’s often down to individuals, and not just individuals but individuals in certain situations. Osorio hinted that it’s something Mexico would be working on during Sunday’s hour-long session and Monday’s training before the team travels to Honduras. He’ll hope his individual players get things right with one more qualification challenge coming.
Even with his back against the wall, Honduras coach Jorge Luis Pinto is unlikely to modify his defensive tactics. That means Tuesday will be another test of Mexico’s bunker-busting abilities. So far in the Hex, Osorio’s men have shown they can get through a stern defense. It’s finding the last touch that has been difficult at times. So far, finishing isn’t something that has bitten Mexico, but it is an area where Osorio will want to apply plenty of polish to make sure it’s not an issue this summer.