Their defense wasn't always up to par, but Mexico still managed to beat Jamaica quite easily on Friday night in a 2-0 win that could have ended with a much more lopsided scoreline. The win sees Mexico advance to the Copa America Centenario knockout stage with one group stage match to spare, and Chicharito's 45th international goal also served to eliminate Jamaica from the competition.
Jamaica started the match brightly, doing a good job of forcing Mexico to play at a slower pace while strangling their attempts to find penetrating passes in the final third. They even looked fairly dangerous getting forward, but a fluid tactical shape from Mexico allowed them to respond quickly to Jamaica's attacking forays.
Mexico actually looked somewhat frustrated in those first fifteen or so minutes of the match, struggling to find the space and time they wanted on the ball. They were forced to start passing the ball back and forth between their midfielders, much to the annoyance of their fans, who made their feelings known through their chanting during protracted passing spells.
That discontented chanting turned into raucous cheering in a hurry, though, when Jesús Corona lofted a ball into the box, and who else was it but Javier Hernández who rose up to flick the ball home with one of his first touches of the match.
It was a well-scored goal for Chicharito and Mexico, with the striker's excellent movement and positioning proving crucial as he stealthily slipped past Wes Morgan to get the space he needed. To score with such ease after their earlier struggles has become fairly typical of Mexico of late, and you could hardly be surprised to see them go ahead the way they did.
Mexico were in full control of the match from then on, with Jamaica continuously forced to scramble to keep them at bay. Guillermo Ochoa was forced into an excellent save late in the first half thanks to a defensive breakdown, but otherwise Jamaica's attack was kept fairly quiet, while Mexico surged forward time and time again. Poor finishing and key blocks kept them from scoring a second goal, but make no mistake: this was a very one-sided match for most of the proceedings.
Still, Jamaica managed to earn a handful of chances, including a penalty shot just after the hour mark when Clayton Donaldson appeared to beat Nestor Araújo in the box, forcing the Mexican defender into a desperation challenge that appeared to catch Donaldson and knock him over for a clear penalty -- but Brazilian referee Wilton Pereira Sampaio didn't blow his whistle. That actually kicked off a positive spell of play that saw Donaldson come close to scoring several times, but he couldn't make the most of his chances, and Mexico's 1-0 lead stayed intact.
Eventually, Jamaica ran out of steam, and Mexico rode that to another spell of positive attacking play, eventually resulting in Jamaica's defense just getting worked over to set up a goal for substitute Oribe Peralta, who scored in the 81st minute, only three minutes after coming in for Chicharito. Jamaica tried to push forward late for a consolation goal, but by then it was too little, too late, and the match ended at 2-0 in favor of Mexico.
The result brings Group C mostly to a close -- Mexico and Venezuela will advance to the knockout rounds, with their head-to-head matchup next Monday serving as the deciding factor to see who wins the group and faces the second-best side of Group D. Both Jamaica and Uruguay -- who were among the tournament favorites before it started -- are eliminated as both teams failed to earn even one point in their first two matches, and their own match on Monday now serves little real purpose. For now, though, El Tri and their fans are celebrating their important win and will hope that there are more celebrations to come for them in the Copa America.
Mexico: Guillermo Ochoa; Rafa Márquez, Nestor Araújo, Yasser Corona; Jesus Dueñas (Jesus Molina 72'), Hector Herrera, Miguel Layún, Hector Moreno; Jesús Corona (Hirving Lozano 63'); Raul Jiménez, Javier Hernández (Oribe Peralta 78')
Goals: Hernández (18'), Peralta (81')
Jamaica: Andre Blake; JeVaughn Watson, Adrian Mariappa, Wes Morgan, Jermaine Taylor; Garath McCleary, Michael Hector, Lee Williamson (Dever Orgill 77'), Jobi McAnuff (Michael Binns 62'); Clayton Donaldson, Giles Barnes
Three things we learned
Mexico's formation was bizarre and bad ...
Mexico were impressive on the day, make no mistake, but let's talk about their formation for a minute. What on earth was Juan Carlos Osorio thinking? His starting "wingbacks" -- Hector Moreno and Jesus Dueñas -- are in no way wingbacks. Miguel Layún, a legitimately good wingback, was deployed as a shuttling midfielder at the start of the game, a role he's not nearly as good at. Those head-scratching decisions lead to a lot of defensive frailty for Mexico, frailty that a better team than Jamaica -- or even Jamaica on a day when they played better -- would have punished much more harshly than we saw in this game.
... but it worked because Mexico are very good and very fun
That punishment never came in part because of Jamaica being off their game, but it also came down to this Mexico side being very, very good, and very, very fun. Chicharito, Jesús Corona, and Hector Herrera all played incredibly well, and several others were impressive as well, including Yasser Corona, who did very well to put himself into positions to disrupt Jamaica's attacks and cover for Mexico's defensive weaknesses. Superior talent and attacking flair can cover a lot of woes elsewhere in the team, even tactical gaffes like their starting shape, and Mexico have both of those things in spades right now.
Jamaica are better than this
Michael Hector had another weirdly bad performance, Lee Williamson looked old, Giles Barnes wasn't at his best and a handful of other players weren't nearly as good as they can be. Jamaica were straight-up outplayed by a highly motivated Mexico side and probably would have lost no matter what, but you can't help but think that they didn't play anywhere near as well as they're capable of. Considering that their last match will come against Uruguay and both teams have already been eliminated, there's a very real chance that we won't see the "real" Jamaica side at any point in this year's Copa America. That's a shame, because they're a lot more fun than we got to see.