Mexico, under Miguel Herrera, had another convincing victory last night in the Alamodome in San Antonio beating South Korea 4-0 following the thrashing of New Zealand in the World Cup Playoff. Goals from Oribe Peralta and a hat trick from Alan Pulido gave El Tri a more comfortable looking scoreline than the perhaps the game suggested against a weakened South Korean side. However, Herrera himself was looking at different players so what conclusions can be drawn from a friendly like this?
Prior to taking the lead there were a number of nervy moments for El Tri and certainly question marks remain over the defensive lineup. The back three of Rafa Marquez, Diego Reyes and Francisco Rodriguez looked far from solid and were exposed on a couple of occasions and against better opposition would have been punished. Rafa Marquez has forced his way back into the lineup and is almost certain to play in Brazil, however his lack of pace is a concern and one which will be targeted by opposition strikers. There is a trade off here for Mexico and it appears his leadership and experience outweigh any perceived weaknesses.
Afer surviving these scares, Oribe Peralta fired Mexico in front. A cross from Toluca’s, Miguel Ponce from the left was controlled by the Santos hitman and he turned and shot beautifully to give El Tri the lead. Peralta’s scoring record at national level is certainly a major plus and he will be expected to be a vital piece of Herrera’s plans in Brazil. Ponce too impressed down the left and with Miguel Layun and Andres Guardado vying for a starting berth this is a position where El Tri are well stocked.
Before the break Mexico doubled the lead although in slightly contentious circumstance. A corner was not cleared and as the ball was flicked back into the box, Carlos ‘Gullit’ Peña was in space to square the ball to Pulido who forced the ball over the line despite the desperate attempts of the Korean defence. Pulido had been quiet up until that point but obviously went on to prove his value in the second half. Peña only featured in the first half but his ever increasing influence in Herrera’s midfield and his performances for Leon bode well for 2014.
It wasn’t until late in the second half that Pulido scored his second and third goals. The second coming from great work by Isaac Brizuela whose incisive run cut threw the South Korean defence and cut back left Pulido a close range finish, and the third picking up the rebound after Aldo De Negris’ initial effort had been blocked.
A hat trick, no matter the opposition, makes a great claim for Pulido and increases the pressure on several other striker options available to Herrera. Still only 22 years of age Pulido is still improving and his performances with Tigres have not gone unnoticed. Peralta would be a certainty but the other Liga MX options, the likes of De Negris or the absent Raul Jimenez will be a little anxious. So too will Javier Hernandez, as the Manchester United front man continues to fall down the pecking order at Old Trafford.
It is impossible to read too much into the result but Herrera will be pleased by the individual performances from many of the fringe players who stepped up and performed admirably. Doubts will remain with the defence up until the World Cup but things are certainly brighter than they were just some months ago staring down the barrel of World Cup elimination. Herrera will continue to assess the players and his next opportunity to test them will be March 5th when El Tri meet Nigeria.