Mexico flying high as aerial game shines in romp over Bermuda

While Tata Martino said his analysis of the blowout won’t go too deep, he’ll be pleased with his team’s performance when the ball was in the air

Mexico’s game against Bermuda went about how we expected it to go. El Tri won without much difficulty, thumping the Gombey Warriors 5-1 to start their Concacaf Nations League campaign off with a win.

There were standout moments from the familiar names with Hirving Lozano scoring a lovely goal in the second half after a ball over the top from Hector Herrera, and then returning the favor as he put Herrera in a position to smash in an absolute golazo.

There also was time for young players to shine. Jose Juan Macias scored twice in his official international debut after scoring in last week’s non-FIFA friendly as well, with one of the goals thanks to a smart assist from Cristian Calderon, the 22-year-old Necaxa left back. 

For Tata Martino, this is not the type of game he wants to be playing, yet there are still takeaways beyond simply that Mexico was a better team. The first 10 minutes of the match, for Martino, weren’t good enough. That’s probably underselling Bermuda a bit, with the home side hanging around for the first 20 or 25 minutes, making it tough for Mexico to get the ball out of the back. Eventually, though, Mexico’s quality showed.

“Our game was serious, correct. I’m saying there were players for whom it’s not easy to play these types of matches but we also need to be able to count on them,” Martino said after the match. “Hirving Lozano had a great participation and played 70, 75 minutes and we’ve got to think that 20 days ago he was playing Napoli-Juventus, Napoli-Liverpool. He’s got to come and play these games. Unfortunately, that’s how it is. But the way he did it leaves me with a good impression.

“I think you take positive things from any game. I’m not going to do a great big evaluation, but there’s always something to observe.”

Perhaps the biggest positive isn’t simply that Mexico was able to score almost at will or that both experienced players and up-and-comers looked plenty comfortable on what could’ve been a bit of a trap game. It was the fact that El Tri’s performance on set pieces and in the aerial game was far better than past matches El Tri have played against similar opponents.

As much as former Mexico manager Juan Carlos Osorio obsessed over winning battles in the air, Mexico often struggled with that aspect of the game. The 2017 World Cup qualifier in Trinidad and Tobago, when El Tri eked out a drab 1-0 win in a game it struggled to cope with the Soca Warriors’ size may be the best example.

Bermuda center backs Dante Leverock and Jaylon Bather are mountains of men, yet there Mexico was, making life tough for the physically imposing defenders. Same with the wide players, who were able to get the better of Donte Brangman and Oliver Harvey. 

Macias’ first goal was an decent example, with Calderon winning the ball in the air for Macias to win. Lozano’s was similar, with “Chucky” using a great touch to bring down a looping ball and then applying a deadly finish.

Macias’ third was actually off a Bermuda corner kick, with Mexico able to lunch a counterattack and quickly transition from defense to attack to put Bermuda on its heels.

Even Herrera’s golazo to put the icing on the cake was progress. It is rare to see Mexico be so dominant from set pieces, even if replicating the shot from the Atletico Madrid midfielder may prove difficult going forward.

There is still work to do. Nahki Wells’ blast to give Bermuda a consolation goal was off a set piece that should’ve been cleared away.

Martino said his analysis of this contest won’t run too deep. Ours won’t either. Strides forward in any aspect Mexico has made won’t matter much if El Tri can’t show progress against the world’s best teams. Yet, it’s worth highlighting where progress is indeed being made. Now it’s time to prove it can be done not only against other Concacaf rivals but against any team in Mexico’s way.

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