19:45 GMT, Thursday 10 November, King Baudouin Stadium (Brussels, Belgium), Sky Sports
It has been three years since Mexico faced European competition in a friendly match and coach Juan Carlos Osorio will be taking these fixtures as a true test of his squad’s ability. El Tri will play against a Belgium side who look dangerous despite missing some big name players due to injury.
With his team the underdogs, Osorio is not conceding without a fight. In a pre-match pres conference, he gave credit to the Belgian side, saying: “We’ve spent the last week analysing and the fact that a high percentage of [Belgium’s] players are in top six clubs in the Premier League and all have opportunities and play internationally in the Champions League makes them very strong … They are well coached and a high-level team.”
Of the twenty-eight players on the Belgian squad, twenty-three play in the top five leagues of Europe, a true testament to their power and ability. Luckily for Mexico, Yannick Carrasco, Marouane Fellaini, Toby Alderweireld and Vincent Kompany are all absent.
Last Time Out
Belgium 4-0 Cyprus (World Cup Qualification)
In Belgium’s final World Cup qualifying game, they came up against a Cyprus team languishing in the group.
Eden Hazard opened the scoring in just the 12th minute, contributing two of the four goals in a match which saw the Red Devils display a sheer dominance. His brother Thorgen also found the net and, in the 78th minute, Manchester United striker Romelu Lukaku sealed the deal on the night to finish the game off in style.
Belgium controlled the pace and tempo of the match with 62% possession which lead to more goal scoring opportunities: Belgium taking 15 shots on goal to which their opponents could only muster three in response.
Mexico 2-3 Honduras (World Cup Qualification)
Mexico closed out their World Cup qualifying campaign with a surprising loss to Honduras in a game that was, in the end, meaningless given they had already qualified.
Peralta opened the scoring in the 17th minute only for Honduras to net their first goal of the night in the 34th minute. Just three minutes later, Carlos Vela scored giving Mexico the lead once again.
However, an own goal from Mexican goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa brought the game level at 2-2 and it began to feel very much like it was not Mexico’s night.
The own goal gave Honduras a renewed fight and this paid dividends as they scored six minutes later to run out 3-2 winners.
Belgium coach Roberto Martinez will likely experiment with his team going into this fixture. Youngster Youri Tielemans will be played alongside Axel Witsel in the central midfield and Thorgen Hazard will be brought in on the opposite flank to his brother Eden.
Juan Carlos Osorio may look to give youngsters a chance in this game. Omar Govea and Uriel Antuna are both promising talents based in Europe who could be brought into the game from the bench.
Key Battle: Eden Hazard vs Hector Herrera
Eden Hazard is a name that places high on the list as those who have the potential of being the next generation of great footballers after the departure of Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi. With his pacey runs down the wing and eye for goal, Hazard will be one of the main threats to Mexico. Despite having a muted season in England by his standards, El Tri will still be aware of how he can turn a game with a moment of brilliance.
Hector Herrera has grown into a wonderful midfielder creating and building play for Mexico but tomorrow will be crucial in showing that he can still do so. He may not be on par with Eden Hazard but his moments of brilliance can catch those who are not familiar with the Mexican by surprise. Though Mexico are the underdogs, this will only push Herrera further and give him the will to help his team come away with a result in Belgium.
Can this Belgium team finally challenge in the World Cup?
For the last few international tournaments, Belgium have been touted as the dark horses with a crop of players that would make a domestic team envious. Unfortunately, though, their elite players have never quite been matched with elite managers and there are many people who doubt the ability of Roberto Martinez to get much out of this squad. Like Marc Wilmots before him, Martinez hasn’t exactly lit up the world during his time with Belgium and, with key players growing older, this could be the last chance that this golden generation have at international success.
Prediction: Belgium 3-1 Mexico
Unless you are a Mexico fan, it is hard to look at both squads on paper and think Belgium can lose. Roberto Martinez has a number of attacking options and, even if the game gets dicey, there’s more than enough quality on the bench for the Red Devils to pull away with ease.
Mexico will struggle to score goals against a team that moves the ball around so quickly and, with Belgium fielding one of the best goalkeepers in the world, putting the ball in the back of the net won’t come easy for the Central American team. That said, with Raul Jimenez on the team, the Mexicans will feel positive that they can still cause some problems for Belgium.
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