The Reggae Boyz will be delighted with a point at the most notoriously difficult venue in CONCACAF, Azteca Stadium
The word “hex” is starting to take on a new meaning for CONCACAF, with the three favored sides all failing to meet expectations against spirited opposition in an opening matchday hoodoo.
Mexico, heavily favored before the match, failed to break down Jamaica and played out a disappointing 0-0 draw in Estadio Azteca, joining the United States and Costa Rica as regional heavyweights failing to meet opening-game expectations.
“We always tried to come out with the win. [These are] draws that give us a tremendous sour feeling,” Jose Manuel ‘Chepo’ de la Torre said. “I don’t know if this was the worst game [since I started coaching Mexico], but this is definitely the one that leaves me the most angry. This is a World Cup qualifying match and we’re at home.”
El Tri surprisingly abandoned the 4-2-3-1 that had served it so well previously, Jose Manuel ‘Chepo’ de la Torre opting instead for two forwards, with Oribe Peralta partnering Javier ‘Chicharito’ Hernandez.
The change seemed to unsettle Mexico, which came out flat and struggled with the physicality of the Reggae Boyz. Keeper Jose Corona only smothered an early effort from Jobi McAnuff after the Reading man’s effort rebounded off the post.
Mexico struggled to compose itself long enough for a decent effort on goal. When it did, Donovan Ricketts was there to keep things even, the Portland Timbers goalkeeper in top form as he pulled off a number of excellent stops all night.
With Mexico booed off the Azteca field by its own fans at the half, Chepo de la Torre rightfully knew he had to switch things up, although bizarrely, with Mexico lacking attacking cohesiveness, he removed his side’s best playmaker, Giovanni dos Santos, in favor of winger Javier Aquino.
“The fans are right to boo us and we owe them,” de la Torre said. “This is not the football that they came to see, we must admit that.”
The change didn’t seem to make much difference for Mexico, which came out hard, but was held off by a sturdy Jamaican defense. The Reggae Boyz nearly took an unlikely lead on multiple occasions, with Ryan Johnson guilty of wasting some gilt-edged chances, including a 68th minute one-on-one with Corona after Andres Guardado gifted him possession. The Portland Timbers forward should have buried his chance, but he rather meekly knocked the ball in the general direction of the goal, allowing Corona to scoop it up.
“Jamaica came in here to fulfill its defensive strategy, and it worked. All we can do is congratulate them and move on,” Chicharito said. “We leave here frustrated and with a very acute sense of bitterness.”
The draw is Mexico’s first failure to win at Estadio Azteca after wins in its previous 25 competitive games in the capital, and although it’s still early days in the cycle, will serve as a warning to Mexico and perhaps a chink in El Tri’s previously illustrious armor.