The first semi-final provided action, not as much as you would want from a Portugal-Chile match but penalties and was definitely one of the better Confederations Cup matches. The winner of this semi will face Chile, who beat Portugal on penalties 3-0 and Cristiano Ronaldo didn’t even get to take one, for the trophy in Saint Petersburg on July 2.
Germany brought its “B” team to this tournament. Well, more like a B+ team because many of their best young players are at the U21 UEFA Championships, where they are in the final after beating England on penalties. Mexico hasn’t had the best tournament; they had to come from behind in every single group stage match. They came back to draw Portugal with a stoppage time goal and beat New Zealand and Russia with second half goals.
The reigning World champions were truly tested by Chile, but the biggest reason they couldn’t put away Australia or Cameroon was a lack of focus. One problem with the roster is that it lacks someone with experience putting games away at the international level. While they have a potent attack, seven goals in three matches, it’s the midfield and their three-man backline that makes the most crucial mistakes when they hesitate, opening up space for their opponents to exploit.
If Germany can shore up the combinations between CBs and CMs (the wingbacks have been fine), then Mexico should have zero space to work with and Germany will be able to hold their first shutout of the tournament. The attack should be able to find time and space against a Mexico side that always seems to give up the first goal.
Players to watch
Lars Stindl/Timo Werner: the strikers haven’t started together and likely won’t here, but they both have two goals and are dynamic around the net. The first goal for Germany is definitely going to involve one of them.
Joshua Kimmich: the Bayern Munich midfielder plays CM for his club but can play CB and RB/RWB. For Germany, he’s been lining up as the RM/RWB and has two assists. Kimmich is going to have his hands full tracking the Mexican wingers, but he loves to get forward and picks his passes perfectly. The stronger he plays, the more he can cover up the lapses by the CB/CM pairing.
The good for Mexico is that their best quality in this tournament so far is their resolve. They’ve been down in every game...but they haven’t lost yet. They came back twice against Portugal, including a stoppage time goal after conceding in the 86th minute. This could mean that Mexico’s success isn’t depending on if they go down early (or late); they won’t have to panic if they know they can get back into it again.
The bad for Mexico right now is that they are without Diego Reyes and Andres Guardado. The CB/RB is injured and Guardado is suspended for two yellows in the group stage. The midfield pairing of Guardado, Hector Herrera, and Jonathan dos Santos has been a major strength for Juan Carlos Osorio’s side. Mexico will have to decide if they should go to a three-man backline as Osorio likes to and play Rafa Marquez, or stick to a four-man backline and lose some of their ability to press and push up the field via Miguel Layun and Javier Aquino/Jurgen Damm.
To add to all this drama, Chicharito was training on the side this week due to muscle fatigue, so we don’t know his availability yet. But I would be surprised if he doesn’t start in a match this big.
Players to watch
Chicharito. The wingers might have a larger impact on the pace of the game, but Chicharito is the one that will take the focus of a German backline that’s familiar to him from his time at Bayer Leverkusen.
Hirving Lozano or Raul Jimenez: it is very likely one of the two will start at LW no matter the formation. Whichever players is picked will have two roles that go hand-in-hand with each other: they have to pin back Joshua Kimmich, and then get into the space between him and the right CB. Lozano just secured a move to PSV and he will want take this chance to prove his worth, get in behind the German backline and find Chicharito to take Mexico to the finals.
When: 11am, Thursday June 29
Where to watch: FS2, Telemundo, Telemundo Stream
Since Fox Sports has the game on FS2 and most people likely won’t be able to see it, I suggest using the Telemundo Stream and following along on here.