The State Farm stadium in Glendale used for the World Cup warm-up
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Five months from the 2022 World Cup, friendlies are not limited to competition. They can let a team know how prepared they are for the biggest stage in football.
Such was the case on Thursday when Mexico, ranked ninth in the world by FIFA, came up against a determined 13th-placed Uruguay side and lost 3-0 at State Farm Stadium.
“The reality is that we are not ready,” Mexico coach Gerardo “Tata” Martino told the media afterwards in Spanish.
This year’s World Cup in Qatar will be held in winter rather than summer due to Qatar’s warm temperatures. The next World Cup is scheduled for North America, with the United States, Canada and Mexico hosting matches, which means that all three nations automatically receive places for the competition.
For now, Mexico and Uruguay will do their best to improve in each of their final games in hopes of a deep run this winter.
Mexico still have three games scheduled before the start of the World Cup. Uruguay have one planned ahead of kicking off their World Cup campaign against South Korea.
Thursday’s game must have looked like a home game for Mexico. Outside the stadium, many cars displayed the country’s green, white and red flag. Inside the stadium, the majority of the 57,000 people present donned the green jerseys of El Tri.
It didn’t matter to the Uruguayan players, who made Mexico look average on Thursday night. Although the game was only a friendly, with so little opportunity to assess the teams before the start of the World Cup, both coaches opted for solid line-ups in this game.
Each team featured players from some of Europe’s top clubs, although many players had just completed their club seasons in mid to late May.
Uruguay launched Edison Cavani, who plays for Manchester United in the English Premier League, with Real Madrid‘s Federico Valverde, who won the Champions League final five days earlier. Valverde attended the celebratory parade in Madrid the following day before flying 4 p.m. to Phoenix for that match, in which he played the full 90 minutes. Mexico have started star striker Raul Jimenez, who also plays in the English First Division, as well as Jesus Corona, who plays for Sevilla in the Spanish First Division.
Less than a minute into the match, the Mexican fans have already launched their signing wave. As the wave continued around the stadium, boos rained down from the stands with every Uruguayan touch on the ball. Unfazed, the players worked the ball in the opening minutes looking for holes in the defence, but Mexico maintained solid and dominant possession in their own half.
Although they had less of the ball to start, Uruguay continually pressured the Mexican defense which eventually resulted in a trio of chances in the 13th minute, the last of which was struck by Valverde and hit the post, temporarily silencing the crowd.
That silence when Uruguay attacked, however, was surpassed by cheers every time El Tri advanced the ball down the pitch. As Mexico’s attack progressed, the fans suddenly rose to help push their team towards goal.
Uruguay continued to press on Mexico’s goal until finally they broke through in the 35th minute. A Uruguayan corner found Edison Cavani, who headed a straight ball at Mexican keeper Talavera, who could only parry it into the box where it was exploited by Inter Milan midfielder Matias Vecino.
“The way that goal came in was on an error,” Martino said after the game. “It was a big initial mistake. With the head, we did not jump. We cannot give them those opportunities.
Mexican fans were silent again as the teams returned to the dressing rooms at halftime. Things wouldn’t work out from there as Uruguay scored in the first minute of the second half.
Just after kick-off, midfielder Facundo Pellistri ignored his defender and launched a cross on target into the box which found Uruguay’s main man in the middle, Edison Cavani, who was simply tapped from there to double La Celeste’s lead.
Mexico looked stagnant and minutes after hearing Martino’s speech at half-time they found themselves trailing 2-0.
Ten minutes after the start of the second half, Uruguay consolidated their victory with a third goal, again thanks to Cavani. Damien Suarez, who replaced injured Barcelona defender Ronald Araujo’s right-back, found himself in space on the right side and then sent the ball into the top of the box where a wide-open Cavani took the shot and buried him in the bottom. left corner after Talavera.
“In the first half the team played well,” said Martino. “Later, Uruguay played very well. We had two chances to score (in the first half). The first half was equal.”
Although the performance fell short of their expectations, Mexico still have time to improve ahead of this year’s World Cup, and there were positives to take from this game.
Even though the score line may not have reflected it, neither coach thought Mexico was heavily outplayed.
“They played better than us a few times,” Uruguay coach Diego Alonso said after the game. “I think what we did today is we played well. It’s not that Mexico didn’t play well.
Although many were quick to criticize Martino for his performance, he managed to stay positive while solving the team’s problems.
“Against the big rivals we didn’t compete badly,” said Martino. “We did well until we made the mistakes that these top teams don’t make, or they achieve things that we can’t achieve. That’s when the score goes to one side. We let’s not answer that.