The Summer of 2021 is looking like a soccer filled summer, especially for the CONCACAF region and DFW.
The Mexican National Team opened their summer season by taking on the Iceland National Team in the first friendly for El Tri before their Nations League knockout games, Gold Cup, and World Cup Qualifier matches.
After an early own goal, Mexico fought through Icelandic defense and secured the comeback victory 2-1.
Gerardo “Tata” Martino started a lineup consisting of Mexican regulars for El Tri
Arnar Vidarsson lined his Iceland side up in a more fluid 4-3-3 in comparison to Mexico.
Iceland, despite playing mostly defense during the first half, broke the deadlock when Saevarsson cut in from the right where his shot took a deflection off Edson Alaverz for an own goal.
Mexico fans were notified via the PA and warned regarding “the chant” as the first stage (PA announcement and removal of offenders) was reached.
Vidarsson first change came in the 60th minute as Aron Gunnarsson made way for Andri Baldursson.
The second stage (tempoary stoppage of play with another announcement) was reached midway through the second half as the Mexican players put their hands up to fans asking for compliance regarding “the chant.”
Martino made four substitutions in the 63rd minute as he brought on Hector Herrera, Hirving “Chucky” Lozano, Gerardo Arteaga, Nestor Araujo for Carlos Salcedo, Jesus Gallardo, Jorge Sanchez, and Carlos Rodriguez in the 64th minute.
It didn’t take long for Chucky Lozano to make an impact as Diego Lainez ran into space to start the counterattack and passed the ball to Lozano to bring El Tri level in the 73rd minute.
It was a triple substitution for Iceland as Birkir Saevarsson, Kolbeinn Sigthorsson, and Jon Bodvarsson made way for Runar Sigurgeirsson, Holmar Eyjolfsson, and Sveinn Gudjohnsen respectively in the 74th minute.
Lozano brought El Tri level with a header inside the 6-yard box bringing life back to El Tri and the fans in the 78th minute.
“I think the substitutes made us better and we won the game,” Gerardo “Tata” Martino said “We have created goal-scoring opportunities and that is what we want to do.”
Isak Olafsson and Aron Thrandarson replaced Brynjar Bjarnason and Birkir Bjarnason respectively in the 79th minute.
Luis “Chaka” Rodriguez was substituted for Diego Lainez as Tata Martino looked to retain the lead in the 82nd minute.
El Tri secured the comeback in a 2-1 in front of a record 44,892 fans since the start of the pandemic for soccer in DFW.
Thoughts & Takeaways
Defense and attack, static and fluid, old and new. Opposites made up Martino’s Mexican midfield.
Having the second-highest capped player in Andres Guardado paired up with one of the least international experienced in Carlos Rodriguez and European experienced (AFC Ajax Edson) Edson Alvarez made for a midfield that showed plenty of promise.
Defensively, the midfielders played flat which clogged the gaps in the 4-man back-line. The midfield trio would also help force their opposition out wide to force a turnover and start the Mexican attack.
In the attack, the midfield was extremely fluid and functioned as pivot points in the attack but also as support players to the attackers. The movement by the midfield utilized the vision and passing abilities of Guardado while allowing the skill from Diego Lainez and Uriel Antuna to lead the attack.
“I liked the way that we played,” Martino said. “It’s style that is good. It still requires work but we have to keep on training and it will get better.”
One can imagine that Martino is combining youth with experience for the three major competitions Mexico is participating in during 2021 to see which combination is best for the upcoming World Cup (assuming Mexican qualification) while giving valuable minutes to younger players.
Playing Mexico within the United States, let alone in the southern part of the country, is no easy task for any team. Iceland were treated to this experience at the “neutral” venue in Arlington.
Despite the constant attack that Mexico posed to their opposition, Iceland did well to subdue any further attacks in spite of the two goals that were scored from the 19 shots that Mexico took.
“I like that the team is creating goals,” Martino said. “I like that the team is created chances and opportunities with different players.”
Iceland may not have a plethora of well-known international players but the consistent desire to play together as a team is what gave the Nordic players a competitive advantage since their “Cinderella” run during the 2016 Euros and 2018 World Cup
This defensive soundness and solidarity will do them well in the coming years even in not competing in the 2020 Euros and the coaches and staff will look to build upon the international respect they have garnered.
Mexico will compete against Costa Rica on June 3rd in the CONCACAF Nations League Semi-Final on June 3rd, at 8:00 PM.
Iceland has two friendlies against the Faroe Islands and Poland before focusing on World Cup qualification in September.