After last night's game in a sold out Georgia Dome vs Nigeria, the one thing we will not be able to say about Mexico's World Cup campaign in June is that it won't be entertaining. With close to his full complement of player's Miguel Herrera left the Georgia Dome with more questions than answers after Mexico and Nigeria played a back and forth affair, but neither were able to breach the nets in the scoreless draw.
Taking advantage of the official FIFA match date, all of the Euro expats (save Giovani Dos Santos who picked up a knock on Sunday) made the trip despite being demonized for the better part of the last six months. It was, after all, their fault, and no one else's that Mexico struggled to qualify in the Hex. Mexico eventually qualified without any of the Expats. The reason was pretty obvious: Liga MX players are head and shoulders above the European counterparts. There was no way Giovani was going to score 5 goals against the Kiwis like Oribe did, right? For the last six months, the narrative has been telling us that the Euros weren't going to be needed in Brazil - Mexico will be just fine with their locals, thank you very much.
It turns out the European players aren't half bad. Who knew? Luckily for the rest of us, the Mexican media can go back to can go back to their usual lionizing of all things Europe while crapping all over the local league. All is right in the world again.
The conventional wisdom leading up to the game was that since this was the only "fecha fifa" before the tournament, then the friendly would be an audition and nothing more. Their only chance to impress. So how did they do?
Memo Ochoa may be on a terrible team in France, but his performance last night proved that he has matured as a keeper. He kept Nigeria off the board after the Super Eagles had their way with Mexico's non existent midfield and leaky defense in the early going. He saves helped Mexico settle into the match and his distribution was quite good.
Aside from the fact that two Herrera favorites, Negro Medina and Luis Montes were completely out of their league, Hector Herrera had a nervy start, but overcame the jitters enough to wrestle control away from the Nigerians. And when he was finally joined by Carlos Peña in the 2nd half, Mexico may have finally found a midfield pairing to build around.
The stress of a couple of bad seasons must have gotten to Andres Guardado to the point that his hair was thinning out. Despite his forgettable seasons, the Mexico veteran (who earned his 100th cap) played with a level of emotion and heart seldom seen. He made some bad mistakes, but made up for it with a ton of hustle. He got more comfortable as the game went on. If gets more confidence, he'll be in Brazil.
Diego Reyes may not have played much since signing with Porto before the season. Even a rusty Reyes, though, is a better option than any other Liga MX defender. Hector Moreno was his usual steady self.
Up front, Javier Hernandez did not have his best night, and then left the Georgia Dome after hurting his knee after a collision with the incomparable goal-keeper, Vincent Enyeama. Initial reports are a strained knee and not a tear. The setback might have a silver lining, though. Instead of stewing on the bench, Javier can focus on getting better and fit for a coach who actually wants him.
The one expat who looked to have the best night without even playing was Giovani Dos Santos. The forwards that played last night had some chances, did not score and are all mired in a bit of a scoring slump. Moreover, while the 4 share similar qualities, they did not complement each other well. Gio can plays off the other striker extremely well in Villarreal. He can do the same for Mexico.
If Pijo lets him.
Three of Piojo's preferred players had terrible nights. Juan Carlos Medina was over-matched by Nigeria's midfield and did not conduct the team well at all. Luis Montes started on the left, and did nothing to acquit himself well at all. He does not have the size or the reaction time for the international game. The same can be said for Paul Aguilar, who also had a forgettable performance as the right wingback. But as we all know, each coach has his own peccadilloes, so despite the empirical evidence that has been laid out before him, Piojo will probably give them a golden ticket.
Mexico showed a few thing last night. It is very apparent that they have the ability to threaten the goal, and the inability to deal with speed (what else is new?). They are on their way to finding a style that fits them well. Will it help them win games in June? Who knows, but it sure is going to be fun to watch and find out.