Five things Mexico must do to beat Trinidad and Tobago

Posted by Eric Gomez

Mexico's pivotal quarterfinal match against Trinidad and Tobago will pit a rising El Tri against a team hungry for international recognition after crashing out of the 2014 World Cup qualification route. Rivals of the Mexican national team have recognized that, even as a "B" team, this group is not up to scratch to what is usually considered a high standard of play for the reigning tournament champion.

- Canales: Plenty riding on El Tri's quarterfinal

To assert itself against Trinidad and Tobago and push on in the Gold Cup, Mexico must exploit weaknesses and cover itself against any potential liabilities the Caribbean side can take advantage of.

1. Score first

Mexico, like many other top sides around the world, is not completely browbeaten when the opposition scores first, but it definitely hampers its style of play. El Tri's patient, possession-style game that looks for depth and association as opposed to quick counterattacks is much better served when things are level or in their favor on the score line.

Teams that go up on Mexico, much as Panama did in the competition opener, usually will set up shop in the back, invite El Tri to move as far up front as they can, logjam the attack with as many bodies as possible and look for opportunities on the break to finish the job. It is, thus, pivotal that Mexico put itself in front as quickly as it can and steer the match in its own direction.

2. Don't give up set piece opportunities

Trinidad's main advantage against Mexico is physique. As bad as Mexico historically is defending against set pieces, this glaring malady will become that much more of an issue for El Tri if they continually allow the Caribbean squad to generate chances against them thanks to unnecessary fouls in the run of play.

Mexico must be wary of, first and foremost, allowing counterattacks on the break. If they do so, they will eliminate speed as a Trinidadian virtue and force them to play with possession and tactics instead of raw physical power. Counterattacks usually breed desperation fouls from players in dire situations close to the opposing goal.

3. Dominate possession at all times

Quite simply, if Mexico is able to wrest the ball away from Trinidad and Tobago, opportunities for the 2006 World Cup participants will be few and far between. Defenders such as Miguel Layun and Adrian Aldrete have shown to be capable on the wings, and, in the middle of the last line, Joel Huiqui and Juan Carlos Valenzuela must create a deep line to avoid long, stretching runs by Kenwyne Jones & Co.

Most importantly, Mexico must avoid giving in to defensive pressure when it is on the ball, as Trinidad likely will feast on errant passes so as to launch speedy replies in front of the Mexican goal.

4. Attack down the wings to spread the pitch

Layun and Aldrete also will be key when it comes time to create scoring opportunities. The Club America pair have been among the best players in this so-called B team taking the pitch at the 2013 Gold Cup.

If El Tri is able to spread the pitch on a regular basis, Trinidadian defenders will have a hard time not giving up space to strikers Raul Jimenez and Rafael Marquez Lugo, who desperately wish to get in a consistent scoring rhythm after playing second fiddle to Marco Fabian and his three goals.

5. Don't get sucked into a physical game

If things go awry for either team early, expect the desperation of an elimination-game scenario to set in. Usually when that happens, the fouls will fly. If Mexico replies to aggression from Trinidad, a gambit Mexican fans have seen in the past from the Caribbean rivals, things can get complicated very fast.

Win or lose, the priority should be to finish with 11 on the pitch.

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