Mexico cruised to a 4-0 victory over Iraq in an exhibition match as Gerardo "Tata" Martino's side continues to gear up for the upcoming World Cup in Qatar.
Wednesday's game in the Spanish city of Girona began on a bright note for Mexico that found the back of the net in the fourth minute through a strike from Alexis Vega. After halftime, substitutes Uriel Antuna and Rogelio Funes Mori made an immediate impact once they stepped onto the pitch, with Antuna providing a perfect pass from the right flank that Funes Mori then finished at close-range to make it 2-0 by the 48th minute.
Then, in the 67th, Jesus Gallardo pounced on a poor clearance from Iraq and sent a shot into the back of the net, pushing El Tri up to 3-0. Moments before the final whistle, Funes Mori won a penalty in injury time that set up Antuna to score from the spot in the 92nd minute to cement the result.
Martino and his Mexico squad will continue their World Cup preparation with one last friendly against Sweden on Nov. 16, also set to be held at the Estadi Montilivi. At Qatar, they'll face Poland (Nov. 22), Saudi Arabia (Nov. 26), and Argentina (Nov. 30) in the group stage.
The most obvious positive note was Mexico's ability to score four times on Wednesday. Heading into the World Cup, Martino's squad have had plenty of difficulties in 2022 with capitalizing on chances in the final third. In their latest result, they looked like a much more motivated team.
"We were decisive, which is something that we've lacked, finishing plays very well," said Vega to TUDN after the 4-0 win.
Elsewhere, it was noteworthy to see impressive performances from a handful of Martino's regular call-ups that have dealt with severe criticism in recent months. Funes Mori and Gallardo, in particular, are often slammed for their runs of form, but were also undoubtedly game-changers against Iraq.
At the very least, the trust on these options and more paid off on Wednesday -- which is a very good sign ahead of the World Cup.
The midfield looked like a work-in-progress. The starting trio of Hector Herrera, Carlos Rodriguez and Luis Chavez were disjointed at times and lacked creativity throughout the first half.
Substitutions seemed to reawaken this sector of the field with the inclusions of Erick Sanchez and Luis Romo, but there was also no real threat against them from a very defensive Iraqi opposition.
Looking ahead to the last friendly against Sweden, it will be curious to see if Martino brings back his usual starting defensive midfielder, Edson Alvarez.
Gerardo Martino, 7 -- Outside of the midfield and the eyebrow-raising decision to place central defender Nestor Araujo at right-back, there are very few complaints about Martino on Wednesday. Even when things became predictable with playmaking in the first 45 minutes, the manager did an excellent job of altering his tactics that secured three goals in the second half.
Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best, players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Alfredo Talavera, 7 -- Very little work to do for Talavera, but he was effective during the few moments he had to come off his line and intervene.
DF Jesus Gallardo, 9 -- Mexico's MOTM. An active evening for the left-back that provided a goal, assist and dangerous overlapping runs on the flank.
DF Hector Moreno, 7 -- A fairly straightforward outing for the captain that spent most of his time dishing out lateral passes and the occasional long ball.
DF Cesar Montes, 7 -- The Monterrey defender worked well with Moreno (his club teammate) and was vital with a few of his duels and clearances.
DF Nestor Araujo, 6 -- Not his fault for being placed in an unnatural position at right-back, but Araujo looked uncomfortable in the spot. He made small improvements once he moved near the center of defense.
MF Luis Chavez, 7 -- A decent performance from the recent Liga MX champion that was highly involved in playmaking. His connection with the rest of the midfield, though, needs to be better.
MF Hector Herrera, 6 -- A crucial distributor, but also one that became almost too calculable and unimaginative with his build-up play. A mistake in the first half nearly cost Mexico a goal as well.
MF Carlos Rodriguez, 6 -- Rodriguez was cautious on Wednesday and needed to do more to justify a starting role. The midfielder at times looked lost in the first half.
FW Alexis Vega, 8 -- A commendable game from the winger that immediately scored in the fourth minute and was also impactful and risk-taking going forward.
FW Henry Martin, 6 -- Despite his brilliant 2022 Apertura season with Club America, Martin has yet to showcase the same magic with Mexico after another goalless outing.
FW Roberto Alvarado, 7 -- Alvarado gradually became more involved in the game as time progressed, eventually lofting the cross that led to the Gallardo goal.
FW Rogelio Funes Mori (Martin, 45'), 8 -- Nothing more that you could ask of the striker that came off the bench, scored and then won a penalty in the dying moments of the friendly.
FW Uriel Antuna (Vega, 45'), 9 -- Antuna was a catalyst in the attack with his assist for Funes Mori's goal and then eventually a well-earned goal of his own off a penalty in the 92nd minute.
MF Erick Sanchez (Rodriguez, 45'), 7 -- A busy second half for the 23-year-old that covered plenty of ground in the midfield and also with a few tackles. Whether this will be enough to cement a place in the World Cup is up in the air.
MF Luis Romo (Herrera, 45'), 7 -- Romo emerged as a slight improvement over Herrera as a defensive midfielder that linked up well through his distribution.
DF Jesus Angulo (Chavez, 45'), 6 -- A quiet evening for the defender that could have improved a couple of his duels, but was also regularly unbothered in his area of the pitch.
DF Kevin Alvarez (Moreno, 45'), 7 -- The right-back was eager to make a name for himself with his pacey runs and also the pass that helped create Antuna's assist of the night.