Mexico begin their final preparations for the 2018 World Cup in Russia when they take on Wales in a friendly at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California on Monday (9pm ET).
It is the first of three fixtures before Mexico get their World Cup campaign underway against reigning champions Germany on June 17th. They face Scotland in Mexico City next Saturday and then Denmark in Brondby the following week.
Coach Juan Carlos Osorio is a meticulous planner and is sure to have a clear idea of what he hopes to gain from each of these encounters. He has taken every opportunity available to him to spend time with his squad, including a January friendly against Bosnia that fell outside of FIFA’s international dates and in which he used primarily domestic players.
All teams competing in this summer’s World Cup are required to submit their final, 23-man squads by June 4th, and there are still a few decisions for Osorio to make. He had hoped to confirm it ahead of a time but a series of fitness concerns forced him to name a preliminary squad of 28 players. Of those, starting defender Nestor Araujo has already been ruled out.
Monday’s match could be a good chance to test out alternatives in the case that Andres Guardado isn’t able to take part in Russia. The Real Betis midfielder has a key role in managing Mexico’s build-up play and will be difficult to replace. Jonathan Dos Santos is perhaps the most naturally suited, but he, too, is unlikely to take to the field in Pasadena. That could provide an opening for young Pachuca captain Erick Gutierrez to stake his claim.
Mexico’s overarching tactical approach is already set. They play structured, possession-based football with a focus on utilizing the full width of the pitch in attacking areas. In defence, they vary the geography of their pressing depending on the situation. Osorio is, however, all about the details and so Monday’s match against a side ranked 21st in the world by FIFA will present a good opportunity to fine tune, add nuance and seek additional solutions.
Wales travel to the United States without their primary star on board. Gareth Bale has not been selected due to his involvement in the Champions League final for Real Madrid against Liverpool, and there are a few other seasoned absentees in the young and inexperienced squad that Ryan Giggs has selected for his third match at the helm.
Manchester City youngster Matthew Smith and Leicester City’s George Thomas are both uncapped, as are back-up goalkeepers Adam Davies and Chris Maxwell. There are a further nine players in the squad with four or less caps to their name. While some of the veteran campaigners will surely return for Wales’ next competitive engagements, Giggs is also rightfully looking to the future – to building a team capable of qualifying for Qatar 2022.
As Tottenham Hotspur defender Ben Davies admitted on Friday, the country’s failure to qualify for Russia 2018 left a bitter taste in the mouth that is yet to fully subside. On Monday, Wales will therefore be keen to show that they can compete on an even footing with a team who did make the tournament.
This is Giggs’ first permanent head coach appointment and his team did okay in their appearance at the China Cup in March. They thrashed China 6-0 in their semi-final, only to lose out 1-0 to Uruguay in the final. There were some positive signs, including a couple of highly promising showings from Harry Wilson, who is again likely to start against Mexico. But things will clearly be harder this time out given the absence of Bale.
The result is not really of primary importance to Mexico, but they are still the favorites with the American betting sites to emerge triumphant on Monday. They lost to Croatia in their last friendly encounter in March, but have beaten Bosnia, Iceland and Poland and drawn with Belgium over the last six months or so. Their attacking quality should be sufficient to see them to a relatively comfortable victory.
Our Preview’s Mexico vs Wales Betting Predictions & Picks
- The betting pick for this Mexico vs Wales preview is to bet on Mexico -1 goal on the spread @ +105 with Bovada.