GDANSK, Poland. A 12th minute goal from Raul Jimenez was enough for El Tri to defeat an inexperienced host in Poland in its final friendly match of 2017.
From the opening whistle, an El Tri side with six changes in its starting lineup from Friday looked to create chances with possession of the ball. But for the opening phase of the match, Poland plugged the gaps and prevented El Tri from penetrating the Poland defensive half and creating chances.
But by the tenth minute, El Tri had found a penetrative avenue through Andres Guardado and Javier Aquino, that led to a chance that Poland goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny was forced to save. Then, in the twelfth minute, a combination by Guardado and Aquino led to Mexico’s goal. Guardado sprung a long dribble by Javier Aquino inside the area. Aquino’s attempted dribble inside the area was deflected by a Poland defender right to Raul Jimenez, who collected the ball inside the area and finished it past Sczcesny.
El Tri continued to hold their own defensively, allowing the hosts few clear chances on goal until the second half. Then, in the game’s 52nd minute, Maciej Rybus fired a direct-angle left-footed shot directly at Mexico goalkeeper Jesus Corona.
As the match wore on and substitutes came in, Mexico regained the initiative and dealt once again with trying to build through, and break the Poland defensive traps. El Tri did get a clear chance in the 79th minute, when Oribe Peralta controlled a ball over the top with space to shoot. But the Club America striker’s shot curled wide of Szczesny’s near post.
With a stifling collective defense that prevented the Red-and-Whites from finding many penetrative goal-scoring chances when Poland did get the ball, Mexico finished the match with a win that was much more dominant than the scoreline necessarily indicated.
And with the win against Poland, Mexico concludes its 2017 European tour undefeated and finishes its 2017 with a 15-5-5 record in all competitions. The display against Poland represented how Mexico might refine its collective buildup and passing lane recognition in defense. But it was against a side whose players often failed to take the initiative on the attack, or play with a sense of malandragem while doing so, and who did not feature most of its potential starters at the 2018 FIFA World Cup.