Mexico rotate again and suffer defeat vs. Denmark before World Cup
COPENHAGEN, Denmark -- Denmark ran out 2-0 victors over Mexico in both sides' final preparation match ahead of Russia 2018, as Yussuf Poulsen and Christian Eriksen netted for the home side in Brondby Stadium.
Here are three takes from the Danish victory.
1. Disjointed Mexico fail to spark
The argument goes that Denmark will head to Russia boosted by what turned out to be a fairly comfortable victory using its full-strength side, whereas Mexico is still a little bit of an enigma after coach Juan Carlos Osorio's latest round of experiments. He was expected to show some of his hand ahead of El Tri's World Cup opener against Germany in Moscow on June 17.
The build-up for Mexico included details of a party in Mexico City being leaked into the Mexican press and a frosty atmosphere around the camp, or at least outside it. Unfortunately, Saturday's 2-0 defeat and complications for Mexico won't do anything to dampen the criticism of Osorio.
The former Atletico Nacional coach picked a starting team including the likes of Oribe Peralta and Giovani dos Santos, both of whom are unlikely to play against Germany. Javier Hernandez, Miguel Layun, Carlos Vela and Hirving Lozano -- surely starters against the defending World Cup champions -- were on the bench. Osorio does nothing by chance and there will have been reasons for the team he picked and the changes at half-time and in the second half. But it was difficult to see exactly what the objective was on Saturday.
There was some negative news even before the game, with Diego Reyes left off the team sheet and surely out of Russia 2018. He cut a sad figure as he disembarked off the team bus around a minute after the other players. The good news is that Andres Guardado and Hector Moreno played 45 minutes, that Jesus "Tecatito" Corona was bright and that Guillermo Ochoa looked sharp in goal.
But all in all, this hasn't been a great couple of weeks for Mexico given some key injuries and off-field scandal. The final game before the World Cup did little to lighten the mood.
2. Denmark need to end over-reliance on Eriksen
Putting the scoreline to one side, Age Hareide's Danish side heads to the World Cup with one area to improve: finishing. The Danes managed to score only once against Panama at home back on March 22, failed to net against Chile five days later and couldn't find a way through Sweden on June 2.
Against Mexico, problems in the finishing department threatened to stop the team earning a deserved victory, with a Yussuf Yurary Poulsen stunner required to end a drought of 272 minutes without scoring. Eriksen soon added to Mexico's woes with a smart finish.
But they were the exception, not the rule, on Saturday. Center-forward Nicolai Jorgensen had two good chances in the first half but couldn't put either away, while Martin Braithwaite was guilty of a couple of spawned opportunities in the second.
Tottenham Hotspur's Eriksen was Denmark's best player, unsurprisingly, but he is going to need more help from those around him in front of goal at Russia 2018. Let's not forget that this Mexico side was shorn of Hector Moreno, Andres Guardado and Hector Herrera by the time Denmark did manage to score.
On paper, Denmark's group isn't the most daunting. The game against Australia is very winnable, Peru is a nice story but hardly a world power, while France is tough. But the Peruvians and Australians will look at Denmark's problems in front of goal and rightly believe they have a chance of advancing.
3. Ochoa must repeat his heroics in Russia
Guillermo Ochoa became "San Memo" ("Saint Memo") four years in Brazil after his memorable performance to shut out the hosts and judging by Saturday's performance from him and El Tri, the Standard Liege goalkeeper will need a repeat performance in Russia.
Mexico's back line isn't the tightest at the best of times and the style of Osorio's side is inherently risky, geared towards forward thinking and positive play. The absence of Nestor Araujo and Diego Reyes -- the top two choices on the right side of the center-back partnership -- means the make-up of El Tri's defense in Russia isn't what the manager was hoping for.
Hector Moreno, playing his first game since returning from injury, looked rusty against Denmark and the home side would have been ahead before half-time if not for Ochoa's heroics. Uncertainty from Moreno led to a chance for Jorgensen in the 13th and a lapse of concentration from Jonathan dos Santos handed Thomas Delaney an opportunity 15 minutes later. Ochoa stood up to both to keep the scoreline at zero.
Ochoa comes into the World Cup off the back of a good season at Standard Liege and looks full of confidence, even impressing when coming out for crosses against a Denmark side unafraid to use its aerial prowess via long throws and longer, more direct balls into Jorgensen.
If Mexico allow Germany the same kind of opportunities on June 17, it will need another miraculous performance from Ochoa if they're to get any kind of result.
Tom Marshall covers Liga MX and the Mexican national team for ESPN FC. Twitter: @MexicoWorldCup.