Toulon Tournament: Match 6: Mexico-Bahrain

This was, by and large, the worst game of the tournament so far. I considered skipping the last thirty minutes, but I stayed true to my commitment and grinded it out to watch the entire thing. Here you go.

Bahrain’s standouts

I say this in the nicest, most polite way possible: Bahrain did not have a single individual who did anything to warrant a mention on the standout list. Bahrain’s center forward Sayed Ebrahim had a well-placed long shot which bounced off the post, but that was the only time he (or any Bahrain player) created danger. Mohamed Ahmadi Abdulrahman had a bicycle kick clearance in midfield, which was relatively badass given the soul-draining monotony of the game, but it went straight to the Mexican side as they pushed on for another goal. Seriously, this was a training session for Mexico.

Mexico’s standouts

I’d like to start this section by applauding the loud, traveling Mexico supporters. They were without a doubt the most cheerful, supportive, and vibrant fanbase I’ve seen (and heard) at the Toulon Tournament. When I went to Russia last summer for the men’s World Cup, they were also the largest and loudest group there, singing Vicente Fernández tunes and proudly waving the flag. It’ll be tough for Mexico to surpass last year’s runner-up finish in Toulon, but with these supporters, anything is possible.

Hours after Ireland went up by two goals in the first five minutes against China, Mexico mimicked their Group C rivals’ early start by scoring two goals within the first ten minutes. Sebastián Córdova whipped in a nice corner into the box, which Ismael Govea converted with a thunderous header.

A few minutes later, Alan Mozo overlapped on the right flank and delivered a wonderful cross to Jairo Torres, who scored a diving, bullet header. Mexico dominated for the rest of the first half, and after halftime, they took it down two or three notches, while still dominating due to their individual superiority and Bahrain’s lack of a game plan.

Captain Jesús Angulo did a good job of coming off his line and snuffing out danger, and even made a few daring runs through midfield. Bahrain’s attack really had no way of getting past either him or Govea. In addition to the Santos Laguna defender, one player who grew in influence during the second half and left his mark in the game was Pachuca’s Érick Aguirre. The Tuzo midfielder read the game well with some quick interceptions, while also spreading the play with accurate passing.

The second best performer on the day, though, was Jairo Torres. While originally a right winger, Jairo played on the left flank and dazzled throughout the match. Having trained with Villarreal in 2017 but failing to acquire a permanent contract, he’s stayed with Atlas, the club which he has developed with since his early years. In a stacked squad full of professional experience (unlike the squad Mexico sent to Poland for the U20 World Cup), Jairo wasn’t one of the most hyped names, but he certainly did enough to impress the scouts who were there for the game.

Whether he was receiving in pockets of space in central areas, or picking up passes on the wings, the 19-year-old winger did well to dance around the Bahrain defenders, ride tackles, and generate danger with his fancy footwork. The 2-0 scoreline was misleading and generous to Bahrain, and a large part of México’s attacks came via Jairo’s side.

Man of the Match

I entered this game as a moderate Alan Mozo fan, and I left this game as a mega Alan Mozo fan. The right back was picked as one of the three ‘MVPs’ of the first week by the Toulon organizers along with Japan’s Ao Tanaka and Brazil’s Douglas Luiz (both of which I also picked for my man of the match in their respective games), and deservedly so.

As good as Brazil’s Emerson and France’s Yann Godart were in the opening week, Mozo was the best right back in the tournament’s first three match days. He bypasses Bahrain’s midfield with pinpoint passing to the attackers, and bombed forward as often as he could, throwing the defense into disarray with quick one-twos and speedy overlaps. The Pumas right back shone brightest when he was attacking, sending in delectable crosses and looping balls in from the right flank. He created the second goal, but he could’ve picked out a few more had it not been for average finishing.

It has been a breakout season for the Chilango fullback, who has solidified a starting spot in Pumas’ defense ever since the start of the Apertura. With his attacking brilliance, he might just have a future as a wingback.

By: Zach Lowy