Mexico vs South Korea: 5 things we learned

Mexico all but secured their place in the Round of 16 when they triumphed over South Korea on Saturday and revealed a lot about themselves in doing so.

REUTERS/Darren Staples

South Korea’s World Cup is almost certainly over as they went down 2-1 to Mexico on Saturday afternoon. 

Carlos Vela’s penalty and Javier Hernandez’s finish were enough to see off South Korea as Son Heung-min grabbed a consolation goal for his country.

Mexico were not expected to finish top of this group before the World up as they faced the world champions and other in their draw. Nevertheless, they overcame the odds and now look set to claim first position in Group H.

Unless results go drastically in South Korea’s favour, they will face an early exit from Russia. It was not expected that they would even get a single point from their group, and it looks like the predictions may ring true, as they face Germany in their final match.

Here are five things we learned from the game:

  1. 1 Lozano is not the only threat

    REUTERS/Jason Cairnduff

    Against Germany, Mexico heavily targeted their own left wing as a focus for the attack. 

    Hirving Lozano played a part in the vast majority of their offensive moves and Juan Carlos Osorio knew the PSV man was the key to success when the side played counter-attacking football against the world champions. 

    His pace and the lack of defensive responsibility from Joshua Kimmich meant that Lozano was the obvious choice to spur the Mexican attack forwards.

    This time around, El Tri had a different task on their hands. South Korea are a different side to Germany, and Mexico adjusted their system to reflect that. The possession would be much more balanced than it was against the Germans and Mexico knew it.

    As onlookers, we were much more exposed to the other elements of the Mexican attack against South Korea as they had to pry open a more cautious defence. 

    Javier Hernandez and Carlos Vela provided the goals that guaranteed their place in the knockout round. Lozano still played a large role in the victory, but his teammates played their part too. 

    Mexico don’t just have one point of attack. And whoever they face in the round of 16 will have to take note of everyone in Osorio’s attack.

  2. 2 Mexico have defensive resilience

    REUTERS/Damir Sagolj

    We knew against Germany that Mexico were capable of battening down the hatches. But when they faced South Korea, they showed a different side to their defence. 

    Instead of sitting deep and relying on their compactness, Mexico were experts in saving themselves at the last minute. 

    Hector Moreno and Carlos Salcedo made several last-ditch challenges and blocks when it looked like South Korea were certain to score. 

    This versatility of the Mexico defence bodes well for future rounds. Not only are they capable of keeping out the teams who can typically run riot like Germany, but they can also keep their cool against the lesser teams.

    Son Heung-min’s consolation goal told us more about the quality of the strike from the South Korean rather than the defensive culpability of Mexico.

  3. 3 Son remains Korea's focal point

    REUTERS/Jason Cairnduff

    Son’s goal ultimately proved to be meaningless as his side came away with nothing from the game. 

    He was always going to be the one who got on the scoresheet for South Korea, though, as everything that was good about their attack went through the Tottenham Hotspur player.

    Without Son, South Korea looked lost. He was the only one who looked like a threat throughout the game. Not only did he have chances for himself to score, but he provided great through balls and set pieces for his teammates. 

    He was the one that provided the moment of magic for his nation, but it wasn’t enough. 

    If South Korea are to equal their success of 2002 and reach the latter stages of the World Cup, they will need more players of Son's quality.

  4. 4 Mexico are contenders

    REUTERS/Darren Staples

    We may only be two games into Mexico’s World Cup, but they are showing that they can break their curse of falling at the round of 16 for the last six World Cups consecutively.

    Against Germany and South Korea, they exhibited two different styles of play and came away with two wins. 

    This adaptability can only bode well for future fixtures as they face higher quality sides. If they can avoid defeat against Sweden, they will finish top of the group and avoid a probable matchup with favourites Brazil.

    Assuming they will face Switzerland, Mexico can avoid their own counter-attacking style, and opt for a similar performance to how they played against South Korea. 

    If they can get into the quarter-final stage of the tournament, Mexico’s players will have the weight of expectation lifted off their shoulders and they could realistically dream of lifting the trophy on 15th July.

  5. 5 South Korea won't make it to the Round of 16

    REUTERS/Damir Sagolj

    When they finished fourth in their home World Cup, South Korea became the first non-European or South American team since the inaugural 1930 competition to reach the semi-final stage. 

    The 2018 edition of the World Cup, however, will see them eliminated at the group stage unless they can overcome the holders of the trophy by a large margin and profit from Sweden upsetting the form team Mexico.

    Germany’s late comeback against Sweden should inspire them on to reach the knockout stage and it is tough to see South Korea toppling Joachim Low’s men after the most recent set of fixtures. 

    In their reactions to the defeat against Mexico, it was plain to see that South Korea’s players knew their tournament was to end at the group stage: their team collapsed across the pitch, head in hands, resigning themselves to an early flight back to Seoul.

    What did we miss? Let us know by commenting below.

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