Juan Carlos Osorio, Mexico’s head coach, has given the world an example of how to play a superior opponent under an adaptable playing scheme. “Focus on the beautiful game” said the Colombian to his players right before facing the world champions yesterday. Besides this, he inspired them to play with all the passion they got: “Play for the love of winning, not the fear of losing”. The words had an effect, that’s for sure. Focus and determination were two things that the Mexican squad displayed and proofed to be the key of their unexpected success.
Osorio, nicknamed “el profesor” due to his analytical approach to coaching and the copious amount of notes he takes, had certainly identified Germany’s weaknesses with forensic accuracy to instruct his players into his master plan. The Mexicans found vulnerable the right-back of the German field, a position that was supposed to be Germany’s great strength, which was now a weak spot ready to be exploited.
Why did this occurred, if the man in the post was Joshua Kimmich, who has been regularly hailed as the best right-back in the world over the past year for the way he bombs forward, creates chances and scores goals? It is simple: His attacking efficiency has a counter effect; he also leaves huge spaces behind him.
At Bayern Munich, a team that is usually dominant and secure in possession, this defect is rarely noticed. However, at the national team things are different. German defense deploys more; they can win in possession to almost any team in the world, yet, tactics based on explosive counter-attacks could put Germany in trouble. This was exactly what Mexico did under the direction of Osorio, who has now won 32 of his 48 matches as Mexico’s manager.
Mexico stunned the holders, handing Germany their first defeat in an opening game for the first time since 1982 thanks to a goal from Hirving Lozano, who dipped and dashed beyond Germany’s stretched defensive line. They might have scored three first-half goals with a little more thought and composure, but they lacked precision. Despite the heavy criticism received at home, Osorio’s approach to the match proved to be the best possible. They call him sterile, but today’s memorable match leaves us a lesson: the use of reason is the cornerstone of football.
Osorio, the man of the hour
Osorio was born in Colombia, 8 June 1961. According to the New York Times, he moved to the United States as an illegal immigrant, working in construction and food service before he regained his legal status. Afterwards, Osorio finished a degree in exercise science at Southern Connecticut State University and then went to Liverpool to continue his studies.
Football and Science at John Moores University was the major chosen by Juan Carlos, while he simultaneously watched Roy Evans and Gerard Houllier at Liverpool’s Melwood training ground. His love for the beautiful game, mixed with great intellect and passion, created him an interest in managing a football team. He persuaded just about all the biggest managerial names in Europe to let him study them at work.
His tactical method has been described by Mexico’s record goal scorer Javier Hernández as bordering on “genius”. Osorio has said that he wants Mexico “to take movement to new levels”. Results have also followed, but critics have been ferocious. “They’re not happy with us winning,” said Osorio. “We have to win and humiliate the opposition. There is no country in the world that keeps so much pressure on a national team coach.”
Regardless of the criticism, Mexico shun yesterday and stood up with pride, intelligence and strength. ‘El Tri’ has beaten the world champions, a result achieved through Osorio’s method and Mexican passion. Football is pure magic: is unpredictable and anything can happen. We’ll see what other surprises brings Russia’s World Cup.