Did Juan Carlos Osorio prove his critics wrong, or right?


Photo Credit: Itzel Segura / Prost Amerika

By: Jonny Rico

Yes, I was/am one of the millions of critics of Mexican National Team manager Juan Carlos Osorio. Yes, I believed that under the leadership of Osorio Mexico was doomed for massive failure at the World Cup, especially in its opening match against defending world champions Germany. I was wrong, Mexico did not only avoid a massive and embarrassing showing, it achieved a historic result against Germany. But I was also a little right.

My biggest criticism of the Colombian manager was that he was stubborn in his tactics and did not play a style of football that flattered the strengths of the Mexican player. While Osorio has been notorious for tinkering with his lineups at major tournaments, he has remained consistent in his idea of playing a style that involves lots of wide attacking players, one central striker and a game plan of looking to play long balls through the air to those wingers.

His over aggressive tactics led Mexico to have a very vulnerable midfield. Something that both Chile and Germany took advantage of during the 2016 Copa America Centenario and the 2017 FIFA Confederations Cup.

During my criticism of Osorio I mentioned many times that Mexico needed more presence in middle of the field. Mexico’s attack is always more dangerous when its talented and tactical players have the ball at their feet and look to dribble at defenders or play a through-ball on the ground to the forwards. Under Osorio’s stubborn game plan, these players were being bypassed on the field. The ball would fly over their heads looking for the wide players, they would be required to drop deeper into the field due to the lack of presence in the middle and thus were never able to make an impact on the game. Giovani Dos Santos and Marco Fabian were two such players who suffered from the manager’s tactics.

But today in Russia it was all different. Today Juan Carlos Osorio got it right,

It was automatically assumed, at least on my part, that Carlos Vela would be the right winger and Hirving Lozano the left winger with Javier Hernandez as the lone striker, when the lineup was announced. But to my great surprise, and to the benefit of Mexico, today Carlos Vela was placed in a more central role, behind ‘Chicharito’ Hernandez.

Today Mexico once again Mexico had a #10 for the first time in a long time. Vela was able to play behind the German midfield and in front of the defense, grabbing a hold of the ball and leading most Mexican counterattacks. He played dangerous through-balls on the ground to Hernandez and Lozano and Miguel Layun. The lone goal of the match was a Vela through-ball to ‘Chicharito’ who then dribbled at the last German defender with Lozano to help. Hernandez was able to feed the ball to Lozano who finished the play to give El Tri the lead.

This is the kind of football that Mexico is strong at. When Mexico plays to its strengths it has the capability to challenge any team in the world, even the world champion.

I praise Juan Carlos Osorio for his wisdom of abandoning the tactics that he stubbornly stocked to for the past two years.  And I hope that he’ll continue to play the tactics that suit the Mexican players the most instead of having them forced to adapt to his own tactics.


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