Mexico cruised to a 4-0 win over Iraq in an exhibition match as Gerardo “Tata” Martino’s side continue to prepare for the upcoming World Cup in Qatar.
Wednesday’s game in the Spanish city of Girona started on a high for Mexico who found the back of the net in the fourth minute with a strike from Alexis Vega. After half-time, substitutes Uriel Antuna and Rogelio Funes Mori made an immediate impact once they entered the pitch, Antuna providing a perfect pass from the right flank which Funes Mori then finished from close range to carry the score at 2-0 in the 48th minute. .
Then, in the 67th, Jesus Gallardo pounced on a poor clearance from Iraq and sent a shot into the back of the net, repelling Sorting up 3-0. Moments before the final whistle, Funes Mori won an injury-time penalty which allowed Antuna to score from the spot in the 92nd minute to cement the result.
Martino and his Mexican team will continue their preparation for the World Cup with a final friendly match against Sweden on November 16, also scheduled for the Estadi Montilivi. In Qatar, they will face Poland (November 22), Saudi Arabia (November 26) and Argentina (November 30) in the group stage.
The most obvious positive note was Mexico’s ability to score four times on Wednesday. Heading into the World Cup, Martino’s side have struggled in 2022 to capitalize on chances in the final third. In their last result, they looked like a much more motivated team.
“We were decisive which we lacked, the finish is playing very well,” Vega told TUDN after the 4-0 win.
Elsewhere, it’s worth noting the impressive performance of a handful of Martino’s regular calls that have come under heavy criticism in recent months. Funes Mori and Gallardo, in particular, are often criticized for their form, but were also undoubtedly game changers against Iraq.
At the very least, faith in those options and more paid off on Wednesday – which is a very good sign ahead of the World Cup.
The midfield looked like a work in progress. The starting trio of Hector Herrera, Carlos Rodriguez and Luis Chavez was at times scrappy and lacked creativity throughout the first half.
Substitutions seemed to wake up that sector of the pitch with the inclusions of Erick Sanchez and Luis Romo, but there was no real threat against them from a very defensive Iraqi opposition either.
Looking ahead to the final friendly against Sweden, it will be curious to see if Martino brings back his usual starting defensive midfielder, Edson Alvarez.
Gerard Martino, 7 — Apart from the midfield and the surprising decision to place centre-back Nestor Araujo at right-back, there are very few complaints about Martino on Wednesday. Even when things got predictable with play in the first 45 minutes, the manager did a great job changing his tactics which secured three goals in the second half.
Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best, players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Alfredo Talavera, 7 — Very little work for Talavera to do, but he was effective for the few moments he had to get off his line and step in.
DF Jesus Gallardo, 9 — MOTM from Mexico. An active night for the left-back who provided a goal, an assist and dangerous overlaps down the flank.
DF Hector Moreno, 7 — A fairly simple exit for the captain who spent most of his time distributing side passes and sometimes long balls.
DF Cesar Montes, 7 — The Monterrey defender worked well with Moreno (his club mate) and was vital with a few of his duels and clearances.
DF Nestor Araujo, 6 — It’s not his fault that he was placed in an unnatural position at right-back, but Araujo looked uncomfortable on the spot. He made small improvements once he moved close to the center of defence.
MF Luis Chávez, 7 — A decent performance from the recent Liga MX champion who was heavily involved in the game. His connection to the rest of the midfield, however, needs to be better.
MF Hector Herrera, 6 — A crucial distributor, but also become almost too calculable and unimaginative with its construction set. A first-half error also nearly cost Mexico a goal.
MF Carlos Rodriguez, 6 — Rodriguez was cautious on Wednesday and needed to do more to justify a starting role. The midfielder sometimes looked lost in the first half.
Forward Alexis Vega, 8 — A commendable game from the winger who immediately scored in the fourth minute and was also impactful and risky going forward.
FW Henry Martin, 6 — Despite his brilliant Apertura 2022 season with Club America, Martin has yet to show the same magic with Mexico after another scoreless outing.
AT Roberto Alvarado, 7 — Alvarado gradually became more involved in the game over time, eventually kicking in the cross which led to Gallardo’s goal.
Forward Rogelio Funes Mori (Martin, 45′), 8 — Nothing more you could ask of the striker who came off the bench, scored and then won a penalty in the dying moments of the friendly.
Forward Uriel Antuna (Vega, 45′), 9 — Antuna was a catalyst in the attack with his assist for Funes Mori’s goal and then finally his own well-deserved goal from a 92nd-minute penalty.
MF Erick Sanchez (Rodriguez, 45′), 7 — A busy second half for the 23-year-old who covered a lot of ground in midfield and also with a few tackles. Whether that’s enough to cement a World Cup spot is up in the air.
MF Luis Romo (Herrera, 45′), 7 — Romo emerged as a slight improvement over Herrera as a defensive midfielder who bonded well thanks to his distribution.
DF Jesus Angulo (Chavez, 45′), 6 — A quiet evening for the defender who could have improved a few duels, but was also regularly indifferent in his area of the field.
Defender Kevin Alvarez (Moreno, 45′), 7 — The right-back was eager to make a name for himself with his quick runs and also the pass that helped create Antuna’s assist of the night.