Thursday 20 September 2018

Osorio winning over his critics as Mexico look to secure spot in last 16 again

Mexico coach Juan Carlos Osorio. Photo: Jason Cairnduff/Reuters
Mexico coach Juan Carlos Osorio. Photo: Jason Cairnduff/Reuters

Brian Homewood

Barely three weeks after chants of "get out Osorio" rang around the Azteca stadium, Mexico's cerebral coach has won over his critics thanks to two impressive opening performances at the World Cup.

Bidding to break their run of six successive last 16 eliminations, Juan Carlos Osorio's side lead Group F with six points from two games following their shock win over Germany and Saturday's 2-1 defeat of South Korea. They are also guaranteed to finish as group winners if they avoid defeat against Sweden on Wednesday.

Having told Osorio to pack his bags after a 1-0 friendly win against Scotland at home on June 3, Mexican fans were again chanting his name on Saturday, but this time it was a sign of admiration.

Some of Osorio's sternest critics, including former Mexico forward Hugo Sanchez, have also buried the hatchet but it remains an uneasy truce, as the press conference after Saturday's game showed.

The 56-year-old ignored a question from a Mexican television reporter about the change in his own fortunes, preferring instead to talk in detail about how he spent six months studying methods for regeneration for his players.

When questioned by another Mexican reporter about the possibility of finishing with a maximum nine points, he broke into a long explanation about the importance of not getting carried away by euphoria.

In both cases, he looked tense and wary as the exchanges illustrated the impasse between the two sides.

Pressure

The Mexican media have struggled with Osorio's often complex, almost scientific, answers to questions, while the coach refuses to trot out the usual football cliches which many journalists feel more comfortable with.

"They're not happy with us winning," Osorio had complained. "We have to win and humiliate the opposition. There is no country in the world that keeps so much pressure on a national team coach."

Osorio has struggled with the media, and consequently public opinion, ever since he was appointed in 2015.

A 7-0 thrashing at the hands of Chile at the Copa America Centenario in 2016 did nothing to help his cause and he clung to his job by the skin of his teeth.

Sanchez, widely regarded as Mexico's greatest-ever player and a constant scourge of national team coaches, led the criticism.

"We don't have a style and to say this will change before the World Cup is like selling smoke," he said after Mexico lost 4-1 to Germany at last year's Confederations Cup, but took a very different tone after the win over South Korea.

"He is being coherent and the players are motivated and confident," Sanchez said.

Irish Independent

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