World Cup expulsion against Colombia not so friendly to Mexico, Tata Martino
SANTA CLARA, Calif. — For 45 minutes, it was nearly perfect. In the same period of time, everything collapsed.
All the good Mexico did in the first half against Colombia on Tuesday, arguably their best fútbol performance in a long time, was completely wiped out as they conceded the two-goal lead and ended up losing 3-2 at Levi’s Stadium.
World Cup starter matches are supposed to accomplish two things: build hype and give players some confidence for what lies ahead. It seemed like Sorting ticked all those boxes until Colombia made half-time substitutions that completely changed the dynamic of the game. Instead of a party night, it was more the same for the Mexican fans who are wary of what their team can, or rather can’t, accomplish.
The World Cup is 53 days away, and after these last two games, Mexico are facing recurring problems that are shaking confidence. Sure, they beat Peru 1-0 in the Rose Bowl on Saturday, but even that unconvincing performance was turned upside down when Hirving Lozano found the back of the net in the 85th minute. Otherwise, there wasn’t much to take away from this match other than what we already knew: Mexico lack creativity in the final third and struggle to score.
Tuesday in the Bay Area, the first half was quite the opposite. Mexico looked aggressive, making direct runs into the box and generating attack. Defensively, they smothered world-class players like Liverpool’s Luis Diaz and Juventus’ Juan Cuadrado. It was the game Gerardo “Tata” Martino needed to tell everyone to relax.
But that was short-lived as Colombian substitute Luis Sinisterra started the half with a quick goal and scored the equalizer 3 minutes later. Wilmar Barrios buried the winning goal with a sensational volley from outside the box in the 68th minute.
“When the opponent’s number 9 plays for Eintracht Frankfurt, their winger for Liverpool and the full-back for Juventus, obviously there will be a point in the game where they will impose their level,” Martino said. “These are the times when we have to maintain our composure, our order and not make mistakes.”
On paper, Qatar-linked Mexico have lost to a side that won’t take part in the World Cup. A very good one at that, but that’s not the goal for Sorting.
It’s about trying to find a balance that they’ve been looking for for too long. And over time losing tournaments (especially against rival USA), Mexico apparently haven’t improved enough from competing for a World Cup. Much of that, rightly or not, falls on Martino. The relationship deteriorated and this loss added another element to it.
After Saturday’s win over Peru, Tata was all smiles and even cracking jokes during his post-match press conference. Tuesday’s tone was very different, argumentative and annoyed as he threw not-so-subliminal messages at former Mexico players turned into constantly critical members of the media. He also spoke about the structural issues in Liga MX and how it affects the national team’s pool and players. While these are valid points, Martino seeks to vent his many troubles at every opportunity. On Saturday, he said he was happy and motivated for what awaits him, but that is far from the feeling of the fans.
This undeniable friction is reaching breaking point.
“When a team doesn’t win, the outside perception is totally different,” Martino said.
Tata can push the media all he wants, and he’s been doing that for a while now, but the only way to change the narrative is to win. He responded angrily to a reporter when asked about striker Henry Martin, saying the media were infatuated with judging a No.9 solely on goals scored.
This is of course one of the main concerns surrounding Sorting.
Much of that external noise he refers to was generated by his reluctance to consider Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez, Mexico’s all-time top scorer, as an option for this roster. Clearly the ship has sailed, although Hernandez has scored 10 goals in his last 10 games for the LA Galaxy, including a brace against the San Jose Earthquakes a few hundred miles north of the Rose Bowl while that Mexico’s attack seemed stagnant in this win over Peru. .
Whether Chicharito would benefit or not Sorting is a moot point now, but it’s Tata’s handling of this situation, among many other things, that continues to fuel this fire.
Mexico still have two exhibition matches (Sweden and Iraq) before their World Cup opener on Nov. 22 against Poland. For the most part, the list is pretty definite. Last-minute decisions will be made regarding injured stars Raul Jimenez and Jesus ‘Tecatito’ Corona, two key players who can give this team a much-needed boost should they make the roster, even if the prospects don’t seem good.
Either way, Martino is leading a team in Qatar hoping to achieve that goal.”quinto partidothat has haunted Mexico for far too long. It would mean reaching the quarter-finals for the first time since 1986. Since then, they have been knocked out in the round of 16 at seven consecutive World Cups.
But they have to worry about Poland, Argentina and Saudi Arabia first before thinking about anything else. The results of these games, good or bad, will be separated as they usually do, with Martino likely receiving the most criticism.
Mexican fans, meanwhile, continue to adopt the “whatever happens, happens” mentality for the World Cup, because in a way they already know the fate of their team: both for the tournament and for the future too.
Time is running out and the “Fuera Tata” noise is only getting louder.