Mexico Gives European Rivals Food For Thought Following 1-0 Defeat Of Poland

Mexico went toe-to-toe with two European powers over the past week and certified its position as World Cup dark horse.

We know — as evidenced by their march through CONCACAF World Cup qualifying and a solid showing at the 2017 Confederations Cup — that this Mexico side is capable of making a splash at next summer’s World Cup, but just what should we expect from the world’s 16th-ranked side? Based on the evidence of their November friendlies on European soil, a lot.

Last Friday, El Tri played to a 3-3 draw with Belgium, the fifth-ranked side in the world and a trendy pick to win the World Cup with their bevy of club superstars. Hirving “Chucky” Lozano showcased a reason for Mexico’s optimism, and Belgian midfielder Kevin De Bruyne only added fuel to the hype train by questioning his nation’s ability (perhaps the most heralded in Europe) to compete with the likes of El Tri.

“Mexico were just tactically better,” said De Bruyne after the match. “Their system made our five defenders sit deep and we were swimming in midfield — it was five against seven. We still put too much (emphasis) on our talents. As long as we don’t have a good tactical system, we will have difficulties against countries like Mexico.”

On Monday, Mexico traveled to Gdansk, Poland, to play the world’s sixth-ranked team on their own soil. Again, Mexico took the game to the hosts, controlling 62 percent of possession to silence the 40,000 in attendance.

In the 13th minute, Raul Jimenez gave the visitors the lead with a sweetly laced half-volley, giving Juventus goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny zero chance in net.

In the end, the technical quality of players like Miguel Layun, Andres Guardado and Javier Aquino was simply too much for the Poles to handle. Chucky was introduced at halftime but unable to build on his recent ridiculous patch of form for both club and country.

History says that Mexico will, for the seventh consecutive time, reach the Round of 16 only to get bounced in Russia. But this side clearly has the quality necessary to advance to the quarterfinals, and manager Juan Carlos Osorio appears to have figured out the correct formula needed to make that happen.

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