Mexico made key strides in respectable last-minute loss to Chile
Here are three thoughts from Mexico's 1-0 loss to Chile in Tuesday's international friendly:
1. Late goal shouldn't overshadow hard-fought match
There was no 7-0 for Chile and there was no revenge for Mexico. Instead, an intense "friendly" between two sides that played as if points were at stake and in which a late Nicolas Castillo goal was the difference.
Mexico goalkeeper Hugo Gonzalez looked to be heading for the man-of-the-match after one fine save in each half, but should've done better as Castillo fired in a low shot, which the Necaxa goalkeeper was only able to spill into the striker's path. And the former Pumas striker needed no invitation to sweep in the rebound.
A tie would've been a fair reflection of a game in which possession and shots was divided fairly equally between two teams, whose DNA is to attack, although Chile's offense did look more threatening over the 90 minutes.
This was the most complete Mexico team Ricardo Ferretti has put out over the four games he has been in charge in the post-World Cup transition. If the Brazilian was to put together a projected starting XI for Qatar 2022, it wouldn't be too far off what we saw against Chile.
That highlighted a respect for a Chile team, which was reciprocated by coach Reinaldo Rueda, who started with Arturo Vidal and Alexis Sanchez. And if a sense of revenge for El Tri following the devastating 7-0 loss in the Copa America Centenario quarterfinal back in the summer of 2016 was played down by the Mexico camp ahead of kickoff, then certainly the starting XI showed a desire to take this match seriously.
Ferretti will be disappointed with the loss, even though he has played down the results in the post-Russia 2018 era. That could be seen with his frustration on the sideline as Jesus "Tecatito" Corona lost possession and, especially, when substitute Jurgen Damm charge through on goal in the 73rd, but spawned Mexico's best chance.
Marco Fabian captained the squad and went closest in the first half when he latched onto a Hirving Lozano pass and forced a low save from Brayan Cortez in the 20th.
The game ebbed and flowed with both sides taking turns to control the midfield. Some heavy fouls were committed and if this was an official game it may well have spilled over and red cards could've been produced.
Mexican central midfielder Erick Gutierrez showed his future potential for Mexico and Javier Guemez quietly had a solid game, but further forward Jesus "Tecatito" Corona could only show flashes and Hirving Lozano wasn't at his best, leaving striker Raul Jimenez somewhat isolated.
In the end, Mexico couldn't get the desired result and that should hurt, but the positives outweighed the negatives on another informative and experimental night.
2. Solid, unspectacular night for struggling Sanchez, Vidal
Neither Sanchez (Manchester United) nor Vidal (Barcelona) are in ideal places with their club teams. Both Chile's stars have been criticized this season, but given Tuesday's game was far from the most important game the two-time Copa America winners have played for La Roja, you couldn't fault their effort.
Vidal was the heartbeat of Chile's midfield, flying into tackles like his life depended on winning the ball and playing. His class was evident in the center of the pitch. He played a fine through-ball to put Mauricio Islas clear on goal in the first half and his general level of play marked him out, as it should given his pedigree and experience.
That's what we've come to expect from Vidal in a Chile shirt, but his challenge now is obviously to convince Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde that he is worthy of more minutes.
Sanchez was returning to the national team for the first time this season and certainly wasn't saving himself for Manchester United's early game against Chelsea on Saturday. But this wasn't the kind of performance for Chile that will fill the 29-year-old with that much-needed confidence he needs for his club game.
Sanchez huffed and puffed and put the effort in, but without much reward against Mexico. It was very similar to his performances for United this season.
Overall for Chile and coach Reinaldo Rueda, this was a satisfactory performance to stabilize the squad after their 3-0 loss to Peru last Friday.
3. Satisfactory conclusions for Mexico from October friendlies
Putting aside the use of a green laser pen against Chilean keeper Brayan Cortez and the controversial chant that once again was heard during both games, this was a positive international break for Mexico.
Sweeping conclusions can't and shouldn't be made about what we've seen from Mexico since the World Cup. But what we can say is that we've seen -- as well as heard in press conferences -- exactly what Ferretti thinks of the generation of Mexico players for 2022.
The suspicion is that Tigres put the brakes on Ferretti taking the Mexico job on a permanent basis, but the experienced coach has shown over the games against Chile and in the win over Costa Rica last Thursday that Mexico has a group of younger players capable of stepping up.
The starting XI against Chile, combined with the one that faced Costa Rica, highlighted a base of players that can move forward. Whether and/or when the more established Europe-based contingent will be included is an issue to be decided by the new manager.
The goalkeeping position was certainly boosted this camp, with Hugo Gonzalez superb against Chile and Raul Gudino solid in the second half against Costa Rica.
It was also refreshing to see Nestor Araujo and Diego Reyes in the heart of defense after they missed the World Cup through injury.
Strictly taking what we saw on the field, any onlooking potential new head coach -- with Gerardo Martino heavily linked -- will have been impressed with both the individual quality and the way Mexico took the game to the opposition and tried to impose their style.