The Mexican forwards, Alexis Vega (Chivas) and Hirving Lozano "Chucky" (Napoli), during the World Cup match against the Argentine team on Saturday, November 26. REUTERS
Mexico needs to appeal to those afternoons of light glory in the World Cups where, against all odds, they eat the world.
They are few, but they serve to nourish the narrative that El Tri needs to aspire to the round of 16 in Qatar.
If before, in 2010, they beat France 2-0 and if in 2018 they beat Germany (0-1) early, scoring at least three goals against Saudi Arabia is a not-so-impossible mission.
The thing is that this Mexican team lacks the goal.
Since the qualifiers, friendlies and the World Cup, Tata Martino has found a certainty: his team looks better if Hirving Lozano and Alexis Vega are on the field, each one on each flank, each one driving the defenses to despair.
Against Poland, both were the sprinters who melted the defenders, who were trying to break the rhythm and who proposed something different.
The obstacle was that they couldn't find their center forward, Henry Martín.
The attacker could contribute little with 71 minutes and only a header that went long.
In the match against Argentina, Martino tried to be a rock in defense and hold out until Messi's last shot.
That is why he planned his strategy with five defenders and without a fixed striker, instead he sent Lozano and Vega as false nine.
On the pitch, Vega put De Paul, Montiel and Otamendi in trouble.
The two most dangerous shots were thanks to his right hand with a shot from long distance and a free kick that ended with an elegant save by the Argentine Emiliano Martínez.
Lozano left his mark on the heat map on the wings with his
at full gallop, although they were not enough to shoot on goal.
But that was not what Martino was asking for, what he wanted was for them to join the defensive work.
Vega made 59 pressures at the start of the Argentines.
The strategy and physical lasted an hour.
Messi's goal fell at minute 64. Two minutes later, Martino took Vega out and Lozano at 73.
There the Mexican offense was flat and then lost 2-0.
The underlying problem in Mexico is that Martino does not have a full nine and has only given play to Henry Martín and Raúl Jiménez.
Rogelo Funes Mori, his main candidate since 2021, has not participated.
Whoever it is, El Tri needs to end the great breaks of Lozano and Vega with a center forward.
In Russia 2018, Lozano was in charge of opening holes for Javier
Hernández to score or become his wall for another pass, as was the goal against the Germans in 2018.
27 years and almost seven seasons in European football, arrives at a moment of stability.
Injuries have been his ordeal: from a head injury, a dislocated right shoulder and problems with the ligaments in his knee.
He's been a bunch of injuries, but in Qatar he's gotten away with it.
Lozano has been one of the pillars in Tata Martino's scheme, but he has not ended up taking the last step to take the lead and shoot at the opposite goal again as in his good times at PSV Eindhoven.
Alexis Vega was rejected from the basic forces of the UNAM Pumas despite going to all the tests, even if that meant crossing all of Mexico City.
His real opportunity came at Toluca, where he made his debut as a weirdo: a striker among so many foreign players.
His talent lies in controlling the ball with muscle and dribbling to get out of the mess.
Thus he arrived at Chivas de Guadalajara to try to guide the club.
Overall things have not gone so well for the red and black, but in particular Vega stands out in a slow team.
Vega, 25, made his undeniable debut in 2019 with El Tri.
Martino took care of him until, at the beginning of the qualifying rounds, he gave him control of the left flank.
Like Lozano, Alexis Vega saw his awakening with the Mexican national team hindered due to injuries.
Despite that, he was key for Mexico to win the bronze medal in Tokyo 2020. His ability to take responsibility for the offense and his dribbling convinced the coach to take him to play the qualifiers.
In Qatar he has been a starter and plays as if he wants to dazzle the recruiters who are around Doha.
An exceptional game on his part will bring him closer to a European club.
Martino's Mexico needs the perfect match against the Saudis, who are also fighting for their qualification.
Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohamed bin Salmán presented his players with a Rolls-Royce Phantom each after winning against Argentina.
If they qualify for the round of 16, they will bring with them another luxury prize, unless El Tri de Lozano and Vega frustrate it.
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