Five Mexico players whose stock climbed or crashed in win vs. Iceland
MEXICO CITY -- On paper, Mexico's 3-0 win over Iceland in Santa Clara, California, on Friday night reads a convincing triumph. In this narrative, Juan Carlos Osorio's men swept through the Europeans with rarely any difficulty.
In reality, Mexico struggled in the first half, thanks to an unfamiliar formation by Osorio, which at times seemed more 3-4-3 or 5-2-3 than 5-4-1. After Marco Fabian's free kick on the stroke of halftime, El Tri gained bravado. Later on in the game, timely substitutions and a change in tactics helped Mexico dominate and extend its lead toward the final score.
The match was a big test for several players still on the bubble, and the performances rendered were plenty of material for Osorio's ever-present notebook. Although the Colombian coach is enduring criticism in Mexico for admitting he still has doubts about certain roster spots mere months from the World Cup, the games against Iceland and Croatia should serve to clear up lingering uncertainties.
Here are a few players who benefited -- and dropped off -- after Friday's match:
Buy: Marco Fabian | 28 | Midfielder
The Eintracht Frankfurt midfielder was a special focus for many. Coming off a serious back injury that had sidelined him for much of the season and had him fearing for his career, there was eagerness to see whether the former Chivas star was up to the challenge of returning to the national team.
Fabian attempted a couple of long bombs in the first half that didn't trouble the opposing goalkeeper, Alex Runarsson. Apparently, the Mexican was just warning Runarsson of what lied ahead. At the tail end of the first half, Fabian curled a free kick over an uncoordinated Icelandic wall into the back of the net, freezing the goalkeeper.
The goal was a welcome return to form, capping off a night in which Fabian made the most of Osorio's initial strategy, involving himself as much as he possibly could amid a disjointed initial group that struggled with build-up play.
Sell: Jesus Manuel Corona | 25 | Midfielder
Part of that disjointed initial group featured Corona, the Porto winger who looked out of sorts in Santa Clara. Corona failed to use his most defining talents, flair on the ball and creativity in short spaces to confound the opposition.
After a breakaway in the 19th minute that saw Corona on a clear path to goal, the former Monterrey man punted on his first touch, allowing the ball to get too far away from him. Furthermore, he looked uncomfortable in a shared position on the wing with Miguel Layun, and became frustrated when Fabian took a shot on goal while he had wriggled free of his marker.
When Hirving Lozano came on to replace him, the difference was clear. Corona is fighting for a starting spot on the wing with a few worthy candidates, and though the drop in form is not enough to keep him off the plane to Russia, it will certainly dictate how many minutes he gets in the tournament.
Buy: Javier "Chicharito" Hernandez | 29 | Forward
Chicharito didn't see the field on Friday, but neither Raul Jimenez nor Oribe Peralta were able to generate any sort of danger against Iceland, allowing the West Ham striker a clear opportunity to lock down a starting spot as Mexico's main goal-scoring threat.
Hernandez will more than likely get the start against Croatia, and even an average performance from the striker gives him the edge over the competition given what was shown in Santa Clara. Jimenez started against Iceland clearly because of his physical frame, a move pitting the Benfica striker against a tall, strong set of center-backs, but failed to generate much up front.
Given that no Mexico striker is having his best season, it's easy to see why Osorio was considering it an open competition. If Hernandez is able to capitalize on Tuesday, he has a clear path to finally being Mexico's featured attacker at the World Cup, after mostly coming off the bench in South Africa 2010 and Brazil 2014.
Sell: Omar Govea | 22 | Midfielder
It is somewhat unfair to judge Govea after a 20-minute cameo against Iceland, but the midfielder has to understand even the briefest of opportunities are vital to making a case for the World Cup.
Govea received a bit of encouragement from Osorio after the game, minimizing the quiet performance against Iceland by recalling a previous game in which he showed more. "Govea has the hierarchy and the strength to play well, like he did against Poland," the manager said.
The Royal Excel Mouscron midfielder will likely get another chance to show what he is capable of, but beyond Andres Guardado and Hector Herrera, there are precious few guarantees for Osorio in the middle of the pitch. The uncertainty means he will be less likely to gamble on a young player who failed to show up in the last stretch of preparation matches.
Buy: Jose de Jesus Corona | 37 | Goalkeeper
Although it remains highly likely that Guillermo Ochoa will be Mexico's starting goalkeeper in Russia, Corona gave Osorio something to think about on Friday. The Cruz Azul man is usually at his best with the national team, and his match against Iceland was another highlight.
At least twice, Corona saved Mexico from going behind when Iceland took over possession in the middle of the first half. Both times, El Tri's defense looked confused and lost track of the opposition's attackers, but Corona stepped up.
Going into this international break, it was quite understandable to think Corona would be third on the depth chart, behind Ochoa and Alfredo Talavera. But Corona's play, coupled with Talavera coming off an injury means that order could very easily flip. At the very least, it puts pressure on whoever plays against Croatia to be equally impressive.
Eric Gomez is an editor for ESPN's One Nación. You can follow him on Twitter: @EricGomez86.