Jesus Corona rescues Mexico from unexpected loss to Venezuela
HOUSTON -- Jesus "Tecatito" Corona and Jose Manuel Velazquez scored the goals in a thrilling match between Mexico and Venezuela that finished 1-1 and earned El Tri the top spot in Group C.
Here are three takeaways from Mexico's Copa America Centenario group stage finale at NRG Stadium in Houston.
1. Corona's sensational goal rescues Mexico
Corona's moment of genius lifted Mexico and led it to a hard-fought 1-1 draw against Venezuela. Corona's fourth goal in the Osorio era brought needed tranquility to the Colombian and his coaching staff, who were on the brink of experiencing their first loss while in charge of the Mexican national team.
In the three group-stage matches, Mexico has not been able to control a match from start to finish. In the quarterfinals against either Chile or Panama, Mexico will need to give its best performance in the tournament in order to continue its journey to that potential final in New Jersey.
During the second half, Osorio sent on regular starters Miguel Layun and Javier "Chicharito" Hernandez to try to save the day. Layun's inclusion into the team was key because it allowed Corona to feel more liberated on the field. Corona, too, was a substitute, but had to come on early due to Javier Aquino's injury. In the end, it was Corona who provided Mexico with the attacking impetus it needed to break through against the upstart Venezuelans.
Corona's goal continues a trend in the Osorio era. The Porto man has scored key goals of late for Mexico, including the World Cup qualifiers against Honduras in San Pedro Sula and Canada in Mexico City, and now the group-clinching equalizer against Venezuela. Thanks to Corona's daring play, Mexico finished first and will also avoid a quarterfinal date with Argentina.
2. Venezuela continues to impressive
Venezuela is the Copa America Centenario's Cinderella story. After its performance against El Tri, it finished the group stage unbeaten with two wins, conceding just once.
The team's recipe is nothing extraordinary. More or less, it's a combination of great organization, patience and a desire to overcome adversity. Their record in CONMEBOL World Cup qualifying suggested that results against Uruguay and Mexico in Group C would be almost unthinkable. la Vinotinto managed to pick up a win and draw from the two, serving notice to Argentina that they will be a tough quarterfinal foe.
Heading into the last match against Mexico, Venezuela made four changes to the team that defeated Uruguay in Philadelphia's Lincoln Financial Field, yet its organization remained intact, and the changes worked. Forwards Christian Santos and Yonathan del Valle were equally as dangerous as the rested Salomon Rondon, always looking to find the right moment to develop the best counterattack to get them close to a second goal.
On more than one occasion Mexico defender Diego Reyes had to have a one-on-one chat with defensive midfielder, Jesus Molina, because Reyes observed that Molina was not quick when coming back to defend. During the 90 minutes, Reyes and Moreno were worried about Venezuela's speedy forwards, who will look to do the same to Argentina.
3. Defensive rotation hurting Mexico
In the tournament held in the U.S., Mexico has conceded twice, and both goals have come off set pieces. With Osorio at the helm, Mexico is also showcasing struggles in defending free-kicks. Venezuela's center-back, Jose Manuel Velazquez, found himself alone in the box and connected on a sensational early scissor-kick that left the stadium quiet.
Throughout the group stage Mexico has lacked solidarity in its backline, and the reasons for that happening could be many, but one of the main ones could be the fact that different set of defenders have been utilized to make up the backline in the three Group C matches. There's no consistency in one of the most important areas of the field, and that has caused players such as Uruguay's Diego Godin and Velazquez to easily take advantage of Mexico's miscommunication in the defense.
To top it off, Osorio's decision to switch goalkeepers in all of its group matches, has prevented its defenders to get accustomed to one main, starting goalkeeper. After what happened against Venezuela, it would be wise for Osorio to settle on a goalkeeper and a set defense for the knockout rounds.
Nayib Moran covers Liga MX and the Mexican national team for ESPN FC. Twitter: @nayibmoran.