How Mexico become your new favourite team at the 2018 World Cup in six key stats

How Mexico become your new favourite team at the 2018 World Cup in six key stats

Mexico stunned Germany in their opening game of the 2018 World Cup but against South Korea they showed it was more than a fluke.

El Tri beat South Korea 2-1 on Saturday to put them in a good position to confirm their place in the last-16 of the World Cup having won their opening two games.

Only a dramatic Germany comeback against Sweden robbed them of the certainty after two games, but Mexico know their fate is still in their hands. Avoid defeat against the Swedes and they top the group.

Their fast style of play have seen Mexico quickly endear themselves into the hearts of neutrals watching the World Cup, as well as fans of other countries who are yet to cross their path.

But why are we becoming so infatuated with the Central American side? Here are six key stats that may have helped Mexico play their way into our hearts.

1. Quick on the break

Mexico earned their result against Germany, scoring the game’s only goal as a result of a quick counter-attack, something which has been a big part of their game during the tournament so far.

No team at the 2018 World Cup has made more fast breaks than Mexico, with the Central American side leading the way with nine spread across their two games.

Against Germany, they managed five including one which led to their goal, and alone would see them still above the next highest team Belgium, who have recorded four fast breaks in their two games.

Mexico had another four fast breaks against South Korea on Saturday and again, one led to a goal when Javier Hernandez doubled their lead.

Only Belgium have equalled Mexico in scoring from two fast breaks so far in this tournament, but the European side have scored eight goals compared to Mexico’s three – meaning Carlos Vela’s penalty represents the only Mexico goal not scored from a fast break at this World Cup.

At 66%, this is the highest percentage of a team’s goals to be scored at the World Cup this year, with Nigeria next on 50% (one of two).

And this has been what has made Mexico so exciting to watch as they punish teams from attacking them with too much freedom, using the pace of their attacking line to cause devastation.

2. El Tri’s Trio

A key part of Mexico’s exciting attacking play has been down to three players: Javier Hernandez, Hirving “Chucky” Lozano and Carlos Vela.

The trio have been Mexico’s goalscorers in the World Cup so far, with Lozano grabbing the only goal against Germany and both Vela and Hernandez netting against South Korea.

In scoring his first of the tournament, and Mexico’s second against South Korea, Hernandez brought his tally for the national team to 50, becoming the first player to do so for El Tri.

The West Ham United striker also levelled Luis Hernandez as Mexico’s joint-top scorer at the World Cup with four and, by the looks of it, will have at least two more games to take the record outright.

Chicharito also recorded an assist in the first game, setting up Lozano for his goal against Germany.

Lozano’s burst onto the world scene has been another revelation so far, turning the PSV Eindhoven winger into more than just the player whose nickname comes from a scary doll.

Scoring against Germany and assisting Hernandez against South Korea, Lozano because the first Mexican player since 1998 (Ricardo Pelaez) to score or assist in his first two World Cup games. His assist came from the only chance he created against South Korea adding to another three in his first game.

And though Carlos Vela made his direct impact through scoring from the penalty spot against South Korea, the Los Angeles FC forward has been Mexico’s key creator at the World Cup.

With six chances created across his two games, only four players at the World Cup have been more creative than Vela so far: Kevin De Bruyne (nine) and Neymar, Philippe Coutinho and Joshua Kimmich (seven).

3. Rafael Marquez history maker

Everyone loves a veteran international at the World Cup, with many hoping Egypt would play 45-year-old Essam El-Hadary in goal, to become the oldest player in the history of the tournament.

But in Rafael Marquez, Mexico have a man of their own who has been around for years – 16 to be exact.

Turning out in both of El Tri’s games so far, the former Barcelona man has now played at five World Cup tournaments (2002-2018) , joining an exclusive list with compatriot Antonio Carbajal (1950-1966) and Germany legend Lothar Matthaus (1982-1998). Gianluigi Buffon did also turn out at five tournaments but did not play in 1998.

And his appearances have not just been as a tribute, as you see towards the end of club seasons, with the 39-year-old still putting himself about shutting down games.

In his two games so far, Marquez has won three duels and one tackle which may not seem impressive on the face of it, but those average out to 7.11 duels and 2.37 tackles per 90 minutes.

4. Osorio reaches 50 games

Taking charge of Mexico in October 2015, Juan Carlos Osorio’s journey to management actually started in England in 1997.

After retiring at the age of 26 due to injury, the Colombian moved to Liverpool to study a football and science degree at John Moores University and rented a room overlooking Liverpool’s training ground at Melwood so he could study their sessions.

“I needed to not only get my licenses, but I needed to improve as a trainer on the field. So, I needed to see how the professionals work,” he told ESPN in 2017 . “So I decided to put all the resources together.”

Osorio would later become a coach at Manchester City in 2001, spending four years at Maine Road before moving to MLS and roles at Chicago Fire and New York Red Bulls.

His big break came in 2012 when he took over at Colombian side Atletico Nacional, where he won three league titles and two Colombian cups.

Mexico’s 2-1 win over South Korea marked Osorio’s 50th game in charge of El Tri and brought his 33rd win, just six days after they deservedly beat defending world champions Germany.

And now, the Colombian could be dreaming of taking Mexico into the quarter-finals of the World Cup, breaking the fifth game curse – El Tri have only gone past the last-16 once, when they hosted in 1986.

5. Mexico in it to win it

Another reason for Mexico’s successes so far have been their players’ desire to challenge for every ball, trying to push El Tri to the ‘fifth game’ and breaking the curse.

With a total of 219 duels in their opening two games of the World Cup, Mexico have won 126 with a success rate of 57.53%. Only two teams have been more successful in their duels so far, but those have both played just one game.

Japan lead the way with a success rate of 58.54% while England are second with 58.49%, but Mexico are some way better than defending world champions Germany who have a disappointing success rate of 47.27%.

Of those duels won by Mexico, 33 have been tackles, more than any other team in the tournament, with Hector Herrera leading the way for El Tri with seven. Only Russia’s Roman Zobnin (eight) has more.

6. Mexico ready to go at their opponents

While this may say more about South Korea as a team than Mexico, in their game El Tri were fouled 24 times – a record for the 2018 World Cup.

The next highest are Sweden and Portugal who were both fouled 23 times when they played South Korea and Morocco respectively.

But Mexico proved themselves to be a big threat against South Korea with the only way the Asian nation could stop them being illegally.

And it is clear why they had to resort to that with El Tri completing 13 of their 21 take-ons against South Korea, adding to the 16 they completed against Germany.