Mexico bid farewell to their home fans ahead of next month’s World Cup with a 3-0 victory over Israel in Wednesday’s friendly international at the Estadio Azteca. Miguel Layun scored in each half with the help of errors from Israel goalkeeper Ariel Harush before Marco Fabian struck late on.
Mexico got a major scare in the second half when goalkeeper Jesus Corona took a blow to the back of the head from teammate Francisco Rodriguez and was carefully stretchered off. Fortunately, tests later revealed that there was no serious issue and that he could travel with the rest of the squad to the U.S. to continue preparations for Brazil.
The match was a curious way for Mexico to begin their four warm up contests ahead of the World Cup, with it also acting as a farewell game to the retiring legend Cuauhtemoc Blanco. The 41-year-old played 38 minutes alongside Oribe Peralta up front, despite coach Miguel Herrera surely requiring as much time as possible to develop a team that limped through qualifying and is still adapting to his 3-5-2 formation.
Perhaps most worryingly was the fact that Blanco, while obviously short of the physical attributes required at this level, was one of Mexico’s best creative outlets during his time on the pitch. With Carlos Pena and Luis Montes left on the bench having joined the camp late, an unfamiliar midfield trio of Andres Guardado, Isaac Brizuela and Fabian were struggling to make their mark. Again, there were hints of vulnerability at the back, too. A better side than Israel, who were neat and tidy in possession but toothless in both penalty areas, may well have profited.
As it was, Layun brought the packed Azteca to its feet two minutes before half-time with his first international goal. The likely starter in Brazil showed the benefit of being right-footed and yet playing at left wing-back when cutting inside and firing a fierce shot from more than 25 yards. Still, it was hard to decipher how Harush had let the ball go right through his attempted punch.
It was a similar story in the 62nd minute. This time Layun did well to create space coming through the middle of the pitch before, from even further out, again hitting a wonderfully crisp strike. Harush once more made a mess of things, however, this time getting a hand to the ball as it appeared to be heading wide of the post before seeing it loop up and bounce over the line.
Javier Hernandez was one of the players given a chance off the bench in the second half, with the Manchester United star’s movement likely Herrera something to think about as he considers the still vacant spot alongside Peralta up front. And it was Hernandez who played a key part in the final goal five minutes from time.
After cleverly peeling off the back of a defender to receive a quick throw, his cross into the box was deflected away but Fabian sent a first-time shot low into the corner to bring a positive end to a match, which will likely have helped Herrera little as he prepares for the opening of Mexico’s World Cup campaign on June 13. He will doubtless hope for more when Mexico take on Ecuador on Saturday.