International Friendly: Mexico vs Iceland – Lineups, Preview and Prediction
Mexico meet Iceland in California in the search for momentum ahead of the World Cup.
02:00 GMT, Saturday 24th March, Levi’s Stadium (California, USA)
It may not be one of the high-profile games of the international break, but Mexico against Iceland could hold a lot of significance.
With both sides in kind groups at the World Cup this summer, momentum is no doubt they key, and if they can take some confidence into the finals, the round of 16 will be regarded as the target.
It is a first World Cup appearance for Iceland, but after making into the last eight at Euro 2016, they know they can push anyone close on their day, especially with the stunning Viking clap behind them.
Last time out
Mexico 1-0 Bosnia-Herzegovina (International friendly)
Having qualified for the World Cup with ease, Mexico have had the luxury of having extra games to prepare their side for the tournament finals. Juan Carlos Osorio’s team even squeezed in an extra friendly in January, and although they were without many of their European stars, they picked up a 1-0 win over Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Hugo Ayala grabbed the goal in Texas as Mexico extended their impressive run to just one loss in seven matches.
Indonesia 1-4 Iceland (International friendly)
Iceland also managed to fit a friendly in in January although they would have learnt little from a 4-1 thrashing over Indonesia. Despite falling 1-0 down, Albert Gudmundsson hit a hat trick off the bench around Arnor Smarason’s goal to turn things around for their nation.
With their European stars missing, it did look like a pointless exercise for Heimir Hallgrimsson’s men.
Guillermo Ochoa; Miguel Layun, Diego Reyes, Hector Moreno, Jesus Gallardo; Hector Herrera, Jesus Molina, Andres Guardado; Jesus Corona, Javier Hernandez, Carlos Vela
Javier Aquino, Jurgen Damm and brothers Giovani and Jonathan dos Santos are all absent for Mexico. With that in mind, expect coach Osario to pick his strongest possible side.
Hannes Por Halldorsson; Birkir Mar Saevarsson, Kari Arnason, Ragnar Sigurdsson, Ari Skulason; Jann Berg Gudmundsson, Aron Gunnarsson, Emil Hallfredsson, Birkir Bjarnason; Jon Dadi Bodvarsson, Kolbeinn Sigthorsson
The huge absentee for Iceland is Gylfi Sigurdsson. That should see Strakarnir Okkar switch to a 4-4-2. Goal scorer against Indonesia Arnor Smarason is also ruled out.
Key battle: Andres Guardado (Mexico) vs Aron Gunnarsson (Iceland)
With no side holding an in form star player, the midfield battle between the two captains should be interesting. Both Andres Guardado and Aron Gunnarsson are the most-capped players in their squads, and their control of the ball and discipline in defence will dictate where the game goes.
Despite both midfielders being well-balanced in their positioning, they still love to attack, whether it be driving with the ball or arriving late on the edge of the box.
El Tri playing it safe?
Mexico will be the favourites for this one, but you have to worry about their lack of challenges ahead of the World Cup. The Central Americans will go on to face Croatia, Wales, Scotland and Denmark ahead of the tournament, and with their opening game against Germany they could come into the tournament under-cooked.
Even if they win all their friendlies, a lack of conviction in the performances could give them false pretences as they face up against Germany.
Struggles without Sigurdsson’s spark
He should be fit for the World Cup, but not having Gylfi Sigurdsson on the pitch is a concern for Iceland. Without him, their style of play is completely different, playing with two conventional strikers, with no one looking to pop up in the space in front of the defence.
Expect Iceland to sit deep in what is effectively a home tie for Mexico in California, offering little creativity.
Confidence for kind groups
Part of Mexico’s thinking for generous friendlies going into the World Cup is to take wins into the tournament. It’s a similar case for Iceland who will challenge Peru and Norway before meeting Argentina in the opening game.
If one of the sides wins in California, it will propel their World Cup plans forward but also undermine the momentum of their opponents.
Prediction: Mexico 1:0 Iceland
Home advantage is massive on the international stage, and although is technically a neutral venue, the crowd will be fully behind Mexico in the Levi’s Stadium. Gylfi Sigurdsson is missing, and without him there is little hope for Iceland.
Can either Mexico or Iceland cause some shocks at the World Cup? Let us know in the comments section below.