Despite the best efforts of the assistant referee, Mexico was able to earn all three points in their opener today against Cameroon. But while Mexico looked to be creating the chances and dominating the game, Cameroon’s negative tactics allowed this to happen. It was unfortunate really that they held back so much, allowing Mexico time and space on the ball, and only sending one or two men forward to the box when attacking.
Alex Song’s performance in this match needs to be looked a closely. A former favorite of mine at Arsenal, capable both of breaking up attacks with cracking tackles and of sending the perfect pass, was noticeably tentative going forward against Mexico. Song is neither a true holding midfielder, nor a #10. And he doesn’t make enough runs into the box to be considered a box-to-box type. He is a player that needs to do a little bit of both to be at his best. Cast as Cameroon’s lone holding midfielder, he seemed lost, afraid to venture forward without cover. Devoid of his creativity on the ball, Cameroon struggled to create chances for Samuel Eto’o.
It was particularly notable that when Cameroon went a goal down, and needed to bring on an extra attacker, Song was withdrawn to make way for Webo. Not unexpectedly, they failed to create many more opportunities. For a team that lacks playmakers, Cameroon needs Song further forward if they hope to win any games.
Song is now at an important part of his career, both internationally and at the club level. He can either change his game to become a complete defensive midfielder, or he can remain an enigma on the pitch, a player so tantalizing talented that Barcelona had to take a chance on him, but one whose lack of a true position keeps him off the field there. A Move away from Barca might be necessary for Song to discover who he really is on the field. Cameroon’s World Cup dream might be a lost cause, but at only 26 years old, Alex Song and his slowly vanishing career are not.
On the Mexican side, Miguel Herrera’s decision to leave out Javier Hernandez looks the smart one, with Giovanni dos Santos impressing all game. The sprite attacker looked comfortable with all the space given to him, and was extremely unlucky not to get on the scoresheet. I’m not ready to anoint Mexico ready to take down Brazil, but Cameroon played right into their hands in the rain. The confidence taken from this match cannot be underestimated though, as Mexico now look more of a threat to take the second spot in Group A.
Now to the match we’ve been waiting for.