VELA FINALLY MAKING HIS MARK
It’s safe to say Carlos Vela hasn’t quite made the mark on the footballing world he once promised he would at Arsenal – who signed him when he was just 16 in 2005.
Eleven goals were netted in 62 outings over three years, before a nomadic path was trodden to West Brom, Real Sociedad and currently Los Angeles FC.
Even at national team level, his influence has been rather tepid. But he has burst into life in Russia.
With three key passes, an 81.8 pass success rate (third best among starters) and two dribbles, Vela was as red hot as a Habanero chilli Mexico is famous for in the 1-0 win against Germany.
Three more key passes followed and even two aerial battles were won in a war with the Taegeuk Warriors, as he opened the scoring from the penalty spot.
It may be a little late, but the 29-year-old is finally making his mark for Mexico.
KOREA LEFT TO DAMN NAM DECISION
Son Heung-min is an incredible talent, but for a nation to pin all their hopes on one player is asking for trouble.
Shin Tae-yong decided against taking Nam Tae-hee to Russia, a player of similar class.
The Al Duhail playmaker has been one of the standout foreign stars in Middle East football for years and could have helped Son shoulder responsibility in Russia.
Instead, Shin picked former Barcelona protege Lee Seung-woo, but the 20-year-old failed to shine.
Hwang Hee-chan looked fairly menacing against Mexico but otherwise Korea have been far too reliant on Spurs superstar Son.
He happily carries the weighty Korean creative and goalscoring burden, but receives precious little help.
He strived but struggled to affect the outcome here. Nam’s inclusion would undoubtedly have rectified this.
CAN MEXICO GET OVER THE WALL?
The Mexicans boast a proud World Cup pedigree, having twice reached the quarter-finals – on home soil in 1970 and 1986.
Forays outside of the homeland, however, have been less comfortable, with six successive trips seeing El Tri try and fail to get back into the last eight – exiting each time at the round of 16 stage.
From 1994-2014 they were unable to get past this point, but Juan Carlos Osorio has steered his side into unfamiliar territory. Only once previously have they won their opening two matches at the World Cup (2002).
They are in fine form and have their most talented forwards in Hernandez, Vela and Hirving Lozano firing – as well as a wealth of experience to back them up.
Beat Sweden and no-one will want to stand between them and that coveted quarter-final spot.
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