Talent, unity and strategy mark Mexico’s Copa success

Mexico players (pictured) celebrate after scoring against Venezuela in the Copa America Centenario on June 13, 2016, in Houston. (Photo: Mexsport)


HOUSTON -- After a 1-1 draw with Venezuela on Monday gave his side the Group C crown, Mexico head coach Juan Carlos Osorio signaled that he may continue to rotate his squad through the Copa America Centenario’s knockout phase.

“We believe that changing positions, changing players, it’s our principle of life,” Osorio said. “And, presently, I believe and we believe...we chose a very good team.”

The stalemate at NRG Stadium may have ended the Tricolor’s 11-match winning streak, but did prolong its unbeaten run to 22 matches. A quarterfinal meeting with defending champion Chile on Saturday will put that mark to a stern test.

Despite leaving nine starters from the June 9 victory over Jamaica on the bench against Venezuela, Mexico held the edge in most every statistical category except goals, holding a substantial advantage in possession (66%-34%) and shots (17-10).

It wasn’t until Jesus Corona’s 80th-minute goal on a slaloming solo run that Mexico was assured of the point it needed in order to finish first on goal difference ultimately.

Although technically a substitute, Corona played most of the match after entering for the injured Javier Aquino in the 18th minute.  Osorio credited a tactical adjustment at halftime for Corona’s lively second half.

“We do not want to take pride in ourselves, we do not consider that this was just by chance,” remarked the 55-year-old. “We played things in such a way that Jesus was able to win in every single pass and he was able to really do a good job.”

Corona became the fifth Mexican player to score this tournament, just one reflection of Osorio’s approach.

The Colombian also used all three of his goalkeepers during the group stage and even made four changes between Mexico’s first and second games, both wins.

“Here, we do not have 11 players who play every single game,” Osorio stressed. “What we have is five, six, seven players who are the most important players. Not starters, but those who have the most influence on the others.”

It’s a well-thought out and executed strategy that may just carry Mexico to a place in the final.