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 By Tom Marshall

Mexico make low-key start to 2016 in friendly win over Senegal

Rodolfo Pizarro
One of the highlights from Mexico's friendly win over Senegal was the goal scored by 21-year-old Rodolfo Pizarro, center.

Mexico's friendly against Senegal on Wednesday in Miami was never going to set pulses racing. An all-Liga MX squad -- minus regular national team players like Alfredo Talavera and Oribe Peralta -- against a young Senegal team who were an average of 22½ years old wasn't the full-on international test that it was perhaps unfairly expected to be, considering it was a non-FIFA international date.

The result was Mexico scoring two late goals against a tiring African side to secure a 2-0 victory in front of less than 16,000 at Marlins Park. Naturally, everyone -- including the Mexican press, pundits and even Chivas owner Jorge Vergara -- was quick to remind fans that the game was meaningless friendly to bring in a few extra dollars.

However, it wasn't, and was never going to be, a game to get overly excited about. Thankfully, the same cannot be said for the rest of Mexico's 2016.

The raw ingredients appear to be there for El Tri to have a successful year. With the Copa America Centenario in June, World Cup qualifying starting up again in March and then the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro in August, it will certainly be a busy year.

In light of the upcoming Olympics, if there is one major positive for Mexico in its match against Senegal, it was the sight of 20-year-old Hirving Lozano crossing from the right to Pachuca teammate Rodolfo Pizarro, 21, who headed in El Tri's second goal. The celebration showed exactly what it meant to both to be involved in and succeed with the full national team.

In Rio de Janeiro, that duo -- along with Pachuca's Erick Gutierrez and Chivas center-back Carlos Salcedo, who both featured in the Mexico squad this week -- will have much responsibility. Beyond the Summer Games, all four should be regularly competing for places in coach Juan Carlos Osorio's squad as the next generation of talented youngsters.

The other solid takeaway from the Senegal match was just how important Mexico's European-based players are at present. While players like Gerardo Flores, Jesus Zavala and Yasser Corona, who all started on Wednesday, are good Liga MX players, they are a long way from challenging the regular starters in their positions: Miguel Layun, Jonathan Dos Santos and Hector Moreno.

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That all points to the conclusion that perhaps now more than any time in the past decade, this Mexico team picks itself, despite Osorio's proclamations ahead of the game that competition for places will be key moving forward. Right now, in Osorio's preferred 4-3-3, Mexico's first team looks capable of mixing it with anyone at the Copa America.

In goal, Toluca's Talavera seems set for the No. 1 spot, with Diego Reyes and Moreno the center-backs, Layun the right-back and Tigres' Jorge Torres Nilo on the left of the back four. The obvious omission here is Club America's Paul Aguilar, but Osorio insists that Layun will not be considered as a left-back and the Porto player is on a streak of good form.

In the holding midfield role, it is difficult to look beyond Villarreal's Dos Santos, with Hector Herrera and Andres Guardado the more attacking midfielders. The forward three would be Jesus "Tecatito" Corona, Carlos Vela and the on-fire Bayer Leverkusen striker Javier "Chicharito" Hernandez.

It is a strong XI, with the likes of Jurgen Damm, Javier Aquino, Aguilar, Raul Jimenez, Giovani Dos Santos, Jose Juan "Gallito" Vazquez and Guillermo Ochoa all in reserve on the bench.

So, while Wednesday's win over Senegal was forgettable, Osorio and the rest of the national team will and should be confident that the rest of 2016 will be anything but.

Tom Marshall covers Liga MX and the Mexican national team for ESPN FC. Twitter: @MexicoWorldCup.


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