Ochoa, Jiménez And Chucky Guide Mexico Through The Fog And Over Japan

As the rain and mist rolled into Liebenauer Stadium in Graz, Austria on Tuesday, it was Mexico that moved like the onryō ("vengeful spirits") that originated in their opponent’s homeland before being proliferated around the world through the J-Horror genre.

An opening 20 minutes of Japan superiority was beat back single-handedly by Guillermo Ochoa, but the rhythm of the game slowly changed in Mexico’s favor and by the time Raúl Jiménez opened the scoring in the 63rd minute, you felt as though it’d been coming for El Tri.

But first, Ochoa.

Japan attempted seven shots in the opening 20 minutes with three on target. The first, from Hannover’s Genki Haraguchi, produced a flying save that the 35-year-old managed to push around the post.

The second and third arrived in quick succession with Ochoa denying Musashi Suzuki one-on-one before parrying Junya Ito’s sharp follow-up.

El Tri’s midfield had been completely overrun, but a stop-start remainder to the half — including a combined 13 fouls and four yellow cards — allowed Mexico to escape to the dressing room with the score level at 0-0.

Luis Rodríguez and Edson Álvarez entered at halftime and Tata Martino’s men immediately began exerting more pressure than they’d managed in the opening 45. 

After a succession of corners, Mexico finally turned the screw in the 63rd minute after Jiménez ghosted through the fog before applying a lethal finish off the far post.  

Five minutes later it was 2-0 after a rapid piece of verticality saw Néstor Araujo feed it to Henry Martín, and the América man played through Chucky Lozano for a beautiful piece of simplicity.  

Barring the addition of a December friendly, Mexico finishes 2020 unbeaten with four wins and one draw. 2021 can’t come soon enough for this squad. 

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