Before the World Cup started, every Mexico fan had a calculator in one hand, and a rosary in the other. With a win here, a loss there, a draw here and there, 3 goals, 4 goals, goal difference, tie breakers… what was it going to take for Mexico to advance? A new model was presented to us as the games started, and it held together for 94 minutes and 40 seconds in Sochi before it disintegrated like a polvoron. Time to take the calculators out again.
Back to Plan A: get a result vs Sweden. Period. End of story. It was where all the roads the led before the tournament started. So here we go. Right where we thought we would be in the first place. The big, big difference in the calculus, however, is that Mexico gets top of the group with points extracted, either one or three. A loss leaves Mexico out. Just like it would have before beating Germany.
The games between Germany and Korea were very different. Once with the lead, Mexico could never let their guard down vs Germany, for obvious reasons. They managed the game well, and got the result. Against Korea, Mexico got the 2 goal lead and let up. The passes got looser and the intensity dropped. Korea was tired, exposed, and primed to receive a 3 or 4 goal loss, but the players decided to take the foot off the gas. And it goes without saying that the only impact the 3 second-half subs was a negative one. The worst thing Mexico can do is to come up with a gameplan designed to play not to lose. Mexico needs to mitigate their risk, yes, but not at the cost of what they do best. Sweden will be happy to absorb pressure all game long, wait for a mistake and pounce.
Mexico cannot afford to be as cavalier against the Swedes as they were with Korea. The opportunity is there to have a very favorable bracket, just like it was in 2010. The big difference between the two teams is that the 2018 edition is overall a lot more experienced, more mature. And the leadership void that had been absent without Rafa has been filled by one Javier Hernandez. The same guy who took Chicharito off the back of his shirt. The same guy who has been the difference in the group stage so far. The same guy who is not afraid to pensar en cosas chingones. His logic has been contagious.
It is right there. Mexico needs to grab it. As for us, we won’t need the calculator for the game, but the rosary? The varnish might be squeezed off before the day is done.