After losing 2-0 to Argentina in Córdoba, El Tri prepare to salvage their final match of 2018 against the very same rivals. Only this time, El Tri‘s journey takes them to Estadio Las Malvinas Argentinas in Mendoza, 424 miles southeast from the site of their first defeat to the Albiceleste.
Besides the distance, several aspects of this match are different. First, the Europeos who convened with the national selection for Friday’s match in Córdoba have returned even though most of the Europe-based Argentina selection El Tri will face have stayed on.
Second, it comes with the pretense in the El Tri dressing room that words former Tigres UANL defender Timothée Kolodziejczak mentioned in a recent interview, that caretaker manager Ricardo ‘Tuca’ Ferretti’s methods and strategies were too out-of-date for the modern game of fútbol, and were not going to help his teams moving forward. The sentiment was echoed by Guillermo Ochoa’s quick words after the defeat in Córdoba in that his side was directionless and without a clear strategy and a new (permanent) manager needed to arrive soon. It was a claim that was backed up by Ferretti’s admission that he hadn’t wanted to prepare to face an Argentina without Lionel Messi in the lineup and took his preparatory approaches as someone disappointed that he was not going to see La Pulga as one of the eleven on-field opponents of El Tri.
Third, deriving from the first, El Tri are going to have to implement whatever strategies they wanted to make their own attacks, or prevent Argentina from being effective at theirs on a collective bases with the Liga MX base who do not face the same kinds of high-stakes pressure on an everyday basis that the Argentina players, even those who are presently practicing their trade in the country, face. That added pressure has meant more precision in their pressing of Mexico’s passing lanes and quicker adjustments to take away passing lanes and pick up lapses in concentration on set pieces faster and finish with greater precision.
All of these aspects have come out as frustrations in a sideways manner in some of the debate shows following Friday’s match. One presenter on the ESPN show Fútbol Picante had even asked why Villarreal center back Ramiro Funes Mori stayed with the team and why most of Mexico’s Europeos, including Miguel Layún, a club teammate of Funes Mori, returned to the “Old Continent,” as if they could sense what might lie ahead when the Europeos‘ national team careers come to a close might be difficult.
With FMF General Sporting Director Jorge Cantú confirming in a press conference that plans are in place to reduce the number of foreign players further are in place, the problems that the Liga MX-based players could face against this Argentina side could be prophetic as to what El Tri‘s immediate and semi-distant footballing future could look like once it gets to the “games that matter” in the 2022 World Cup and 2021 FIFA Confederations Cup. Argentina, without many of their “talismen”, have been able to operate with muscle memory out of an organized, fluid, protagonistic style of play that neither needs a permanent manager nor major adjustment by the manager in charge to be able to execute that collective strategy.
The good news is that, for Mexico’s struggles, that the kind of friendly El Tri took on during this November international window is the one that might get a number of players, like defender Gerardo Arteaga and winger Roberto Alvarado to recognize where they need to work on their game to stand a fighting chance at keeping hold of their El Tri and club careers as they get older. El Tri also will receive a reinforcement in the center of defense in Querétaro center back Hiram Mier, who’s coming off of a renaissance Apertura 2018.
With more reports coming out of the 2018 Soccerex conference that former Atlanta United, Barcelona, Paraguay, and Argentina técnico Gerardo Martino is set to take over national team duties from the anachronistic “Tuca”, the match might present a dynamic where the players who feature for El Tri might be playing for their potential roles under the new manager in 2019. That urgency might pad a strength that the selection had on Friday–the bravery to build out of possession and set up change-of-rhythm chances, even if they ended up not developing into scored goals.
There are other dubious lines that El Tri players could face as a collective if they manage to lose for a second time to Argentina. El Tri could finish 2018 losing seven out of their final eight matches in the calendar year, and five out of their last six overall, the worst run of form El Tri has had in the last 11 years. And in each of the last six defeats, El Tri has failed to score more than once.
The answers as to whether El Tri finishes off 2018 still on their dubious run of form will start to appear at a kickoff time of 6:30 PM EST (UTC -5). The match can be seen on UniMás and UDN in the United States, and on Televisa Canal 5, Azteca 7, TDN, and UnivisionTDN in Mexico.