Five things Mexico did wrong during the 2013 Confederations Cup

Posted by Eric Gomez

FORTALEZA, Brazil -- As Mexico bids adieu to the 2013 Confederations Cup and enters a lengthy lull before the final stretch of the 2014 World Cup qualifying campaign, El Tri will surely have plenty of time to lament what could have been in Brazil this summer, as they looked to repeat prior successes against Brazil, Italy and Japan.

Unfortunately for them, Mexico brought with them the sins that have dogged the WCQ run and 2013 in general. Since their first game this year in January, El Tri have won just two of 14 games. Their woes have been both offensive and defensive, with many of their star players not looking comfortable on the pitch for long stretches.

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Should Mexico look to learn its lesson from the 2013 Confederations Cup, it will need to strengthen these particular areas as they face the final smattering of games that will decide whether the country makes a return trip to Brazil in 2014.

1. Over-emphasis on experience over youth and raw talent

It's hard to explain why Gerardo Torrado started all three games in the FIFA Confederations Cup. The wily veteran has become a liability for Mexico, as his form has dipped tremendously. Chepo de la Torre has highlighted Torrado's leadership and physical presence in the middle of the pitch, valid but not enough to keep younger, more talented players like Jesus Molina or Hector Herrera off the starters' sheet.

The same could be said for players like Francisco Rodriguez and Carlos Salcido, stalwarts of a different time who definitely should be asked to pass the torch sooner rather than later. Prior to the Japan match, Raul Jimenez had barely sniffed the pitch, despite the fact that Aldo de Nigris was unavailable due to injury. If Chepo shows any sort of contrite action, we'll at least say goodbye to Torrado.

2. No set strategy for either match

De la Torre is still struggling with how to place his players on the pitch. The debate between a 4-4-1-1 or a 4-4-2 has become a staple of Mexican sports programs on radio and TV. Against Japan, de La Torre appeared to have experimented with a 4-3-3 coming from halftime, which yielded El Tri's first goal from open play in the tournament just minutes later.

As Mexico moves into the final rounds of qualifying, they will need to figure out how they will play, not just who they will play with. Constant switching from one formation to another has only spread confusion and a lack of rhythm on the field that will need to stop in the all-important final stretch.

3. Failure to display boldness against big teams

If there was anything that characterized Mexico in these types of tournaments, it was quite simply their lack of desire that saw them pushed around by the classier teams in world football. Against the field at the Confederations Cup, Mexico played like a scared debutante, preferring to counterattack (ineffectively) against Italy and starting slowly against all three teams, falling behind in the score line against both the Italians as well as Brazil, and barely surviving against Japan.

In years past, Mexico appeared to have a sort of gusto when pitted against teams like Italy and Brazil, preferring to have possession of the ball and go right at them, often with very positive results. It was definitely not the case this time in Brazil.

4. A lack of offensive chemistry

This, in truth, is a direct consequence of not defining how your strategy is going to work up front. The way that de la Torre has mismanaged his offensive personnel has also not allowed them to jell during the tournament.

Giovani dos Santos should be a staple of the offensive midfield. No matter if it's Andres Guardado, Salcido, Hiram Mier, Javier Aquino or Pablo Barrera manning the left and right flanks, Mexico's attack should branch out as much as possible to avoid central defenders getting comfortable with Javier Hernandez.

Finally, if and when de La Torre goes to two strikers, the supporting striker should be just that, a player whose chemistry and talent is adequate to pair up with a pure poacher such as Chicharito.

5. No display of defensive discipline when teams start fast

Mexico looked shell-shocked when all three teams came at them from the gate. Italy wasn't able to parlay the dominance into an early goal, but still went up 1-0 after a superb Andrea Pirlo free kick. Against Brazil, Neymar was also able to stamp early dominance with a fantastic volley that steered the game towards a logical conclusion. Japan was robbed of an early goal due to a bogus offside call.

Again, different players started for Mexico throughout the three games in the back line. It wasn't the personnel, but rather a failing of pre-game recon and preparation that allowed teams to capitalize on a team that was frankly slow to start for the entirety of the group stage.

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