Sports Mole previews Friday’s International Friendlies clash between Mexico and Uruguay, including predictions, team news and possible lineups.
El Tri have only conceded once in their previous seven encounters in all competitions, while the former two-time World Cup champions have three clean sheets in their four matches played this year.
Gerardo Martino and his Mexican side are getting set to make an eighth consecutive appearance at the World Cup later this year, as they look to move beyond the last 16 for the first time since 1986.
They have a busy summer of preparation before travelling to Qatar, with three friendlies and two CONCACAF Nations League games in between now and the end of August.
It was no surprise to see them make it to the finals, finishing second in the Octagon, but how they did it was very different from what we are used to seeing.
They scored a goal or fewer in 11 of their 14 qualifiers, winning five of their eight matches by a single goal, in a campaign which was heavily scrutinized by the Mexican media.
That scrutiny comes with the territory of being such a big team in Central America, as pundits accused Mexico during the qualifying cycle of lacking heart, personality and motivation.
This team faced a ton of adversity heading into this year, on the back of successive defeats to the USA (2-0) and Canada (2-1) in qualifying, and while many still question how El Tri have performed, they have yet to lose in 2022.
Some late heroics enabled them to remain in a position to make it back to the finals, winning three of their four qualifiers this year thanks to a goal beyond the 70th minute in each of those victories.
When he became manager in 2019, Martino aimed to change the mentality of the Mexican footballer and take them to new heights, although it is debatable whether or not he has achieved those goals, with El Tri losing the CONCACAF Nations League and Gold Cup final to the Americans.
Despite a shaky 2021 summer of World Cup qualifying which saw Uruguay go winless in four of their five matches, La Celeste managed to turn things around, finishing third in the CONMEBOL table with 28 points.
The good news for Diego Alonso and his team was that they had their tough qualifiers out of the way by the end last year, losing four encounters to Brazil (two) and Argentina (two) respectively.
They took full advantage of the weaker South American sides in 2022, winning all four of their qualifiers played this year, advancing to the finals for a third successive time.
Bringing in Alonso to replace the beloved Oscar Tabarez was a risky move, after El Maestro oversaw a golden generation of talent, leading Uruguay to the Semi-Finals of the 2010 FIFA World Cup.
Alonso was brought in to turn the Uruguayans into a more aggressive unit, and in his early days at the helm we have seen them come out more determined with 23 efforts on target in their final four qualifying fixtures this year, scoring eight goals in the process.
We have seen them do a much better job when it comes to pressing higher up the field, which has allowed them to have more scoring opportunities.
While all of their tactical adjustments have been effective, arguably what turned their qualification campaign around was a return to what this team know best, defending.
Uruguay have only conceded one goal this year, while allowing three shots on target or fewer in three of those four encounters.
Mexico International Friendlies form:
Mexico form (all competitions):
Uruguay International Friendlies form:
Uruguay form (all competitions):
Raul Jimenez is closing in on 100 international caps, with 95 for Mexico heading into this encounter, and he is one strike behind Enrique Borja for fifth in all-time goals with 30, while Hector Moreno can draw even with Carlos Salcido for seventh in appearances, should he see the field on Thursday.
Luis Suarez was a big part of the Uruguayan qualification campaign, scoring eight goals for his country, though he was not selected for this fixture.
Manchester United striker Edinson Cavani is fourth in all-time caps for the national team with 130, and he can move into a tie with Fernando Muslera for third this week, though the Uruguay keeper can move into a tie himself with Suarez for second in that department if he plays in this one.
Sergio Rochet seems to be the preferred choice in goal for Alonso of late, with the Nacional keeper collecting three clean sheets for La Celeste this year.
Diego Rossi had six goals domestically for Fenerbahce this past season, Matias Vina was on the field when Roma won the Europa Conference League and Federico Valverde started in the Champions League final, where Real Madrid defeated Liverpool 1-0 last weekend.
Mexico possible starting lineup:
Ochoa; Aguirre, Moreno, Dominguez, Gallardo; Cordova, Herrera, Pineda; Flores, Jimenez, Corona
Uruguay possible starting lineup:
Rochet; Vina, Araujo, Godin, Varela; Vecino, Torreira; Rossi, Valverde, de Arrascaeta; Cavani
We say: Mexico 0-1 Uruguay
These are two intelligent and compact defensive units that are well organised and difficult to break down, though we believe Uruguay will have a slight edge in a variety of categories, including experience and individual quality, plus they have faced much stiffer competition when compared to El Tri.
Those factors and the fact that this match is being played at a neutral venue rather than Estadio Azteca should favour La Celeste.
For data analysis of the most likely results, scorelines and more for this match please click here.