Mexico's Friendlies Reveal Hopes and Concerns

Pablo Barrera has performed well against the Europeans

Now that Mexico is in its final phase of World Cup preparation, some disquieting, but not unexpected trends have emerged.

Mexico has problems defending set pieces.

As long as I have been alive, Mexico has had problems defending set pieces. Mexico is probably the only team in the history of the world cup that has given up a goal off one of their own set pieces. Corner kicks and free kicks cause a hell of a lot more anxiety than they should, so why give them away? Unforced errors and careless fouls have to be reduced.

There is a huge difference between the first and second team.

The first half of the Mexico-Holland game was going to be difficult, especially considering the nine changes Aguirre made to the line-up. But Mexico ended up playing a game of desperate kickball and was lucky to only be down by two.

In both games, Mexico looked far more dangerous when Giovani Dos Santos, Carlos Vela, and Pablo Barrera were on the pitch. They have all had some scoring chances and failed to find the back of the net, but you can’t score if you don’t shoot. And they are the only ones pulling the trigger right now.

This is nothing new for Gio and Vela, who look to have secured a spot in the XI (especially if Aguirre opts for the 4-3-3 formation he has been using in this last phase of preparation). But Barrera, who has become a bona fide star for Pumas, has not wilted under the stronger competition. He looks to have locked down the first option off the bench.

It’s no secret that this generation of Mexican players is very talented, but what impresses me more than anything is their mental fortitude. They are fearless. If they are told the hill’s too steep to climb, they’ll climb it. And as they rise above the tree lines and the clouds, they look down, hearing the sound of the things we've said today.

If Javier Aguirre has learned anything about the last two losses vs. England and the Netherlands, hopefully it is the strength of the young backs on the squad. Because if Mexico is going to do anything in this World Cup beyond its standard, it’ll have to rely on its youth to carry the team.