Marco Fabian (L) and Giovani Dos Santos of Mexico's soccer team warm up during a training session ahead of the London 2012 Olympic Games at Cochrane Park in Newcastle, northern England, July 22, 2012. (Photo : REUTERS/Nigel Roddis)
Mexico and Senegal are the second quarterfinals match of the day. Featured in this match are two premier strikers, one who came into the tournament as a superstar and the other who has made a name for himself with his revelatory play.
2:30 p.m. London Time
9:30 a.m. EDT
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El Tri was underwhelming through its group stage despite winning group B with two wins and one draw. They parried with Korea to a scoreless draw and then barely defeated Gabon 2-0 in a win that included a penalty shot goal in the final seconds of play. Then they won against Switzerland despite being the inferior squad on the pitch.
Coach Luis Fernando has made questionable decisions throughout, most noticeable has been his insistence on keeping striker Giovanni Dos Santos on the bench to start the first two matches. Dos Santos has only proven to ignite the Mexican attack and force other teams into defensive shells. Dos Santos scored both goals against Gabon and has certainly held up his end of the bargain. Had he been in against Korea from the start (rather than wait 66 minutes) who knows how much damage he could have done.
On paper Mexico is deep and layered offensively, but they have yet to kick into full gear as evidence in their haphazard display against Switzerland. Both teams needed the points, but only the Swiss looked desperate.
It hasn't all been bad for El Tri though. With Japan, they are the only remaining squad to still have a goose egg in the goals against column. Their defense has won them games as they have shut down other offenses to this point. Their greatest challenge comes against a resurgent Senegal attack let by Moussa Konate.
Key Player: Marco Fabian. Dos Santos will sway the outcome, but he needs help. Fabian has been counted on to be the other go to guy offensively and may be the reason that Fernando has kept Dos Santos on the bench to start matches. However, he has been a non-entity during the first three matches and needs to step it up if Mexico is to progress. If teams only need to keep an eye on Dos Santos to stop Mexico's attack (as evidenced by Switzerland), then El Tri may be an easy team to eliminate.
The Africans were not expected to exit Group A with the likes of Uruguay and Great Britain standing in their way. But the group persevered with a late 1-1 draw with GB and a huge 2-0 win over Uruguay. A 1-1 draw to UAE was the icing on the cake in what has been a successful tournament for Senegal. Leading the way has been Moussa Konate who has erupted for 4 goals in three games and has been dangerous in every match. No team has found an answer for the young striker's speed and lethal shot.
Despite the strong offense and only one win, no one should look at Senegal as a one trick pony. They have only allowed two goals in the three games and were extremely adept at shutting down the likes of Luis Suarez and Nicolas Lodeiro in the Uruguay match.
Key Player: Moussa Konate. Who else? He has literally been Senegal's offense and needs continue being special as the Mexicans look to shut him down.
Mexico Will Win IF...
They continue their defensive display and put the pressure on Senegal. They have more depth and skill to win this match but they need to play with aggression and desire that they have often lacked early in the tournament.
Senegal Will Win IF...
They shut down Mexico and slow the match down. This squad is aggressive, but it might help them to keep the pace slow in this one. They longer the match goes, the higher the pressure mounts for the Mexicans who have the entire world expecting a medal from them. The longer the game goes on, the more it favors Senegal. A 0-0 draw in the 70th minute will keep Senegal loose and Mexico tight.
Prediction: Mexico puts on a virtuosic offensive display despite Konate adding his fifth of the tournament. Mexico 3-1.