Mexico miss chances as Argentina battle to a draw in Group A opener

February 21 – Mexico and Argentina opened the W Gold Cup group rounds with an entertaining 0-0 draw at the Dignity Health Stadium in Carson, Los Angeles.

It could prove to be a result that benefits both teams in terms of qualification for the quarter finals that will see the three group winners and second place nations, plus the two best third placed team go forward.

In 2021 at their home-hosted W Championship in Monterey, Mexico promised much but ultimately disappointed. There was a feeling of déjà vu about this game. For all their slick passing and movement, Mexico were wasteful in front of goal, missed a penalty and generally contrived to miss opportunity after opportunity.

Argentina drew this match, but Mexico lost it. Argentina will get better. Mexico need to get goals to back up the rest of their play.

The last time these two teams met at the Pan American games in October, Mexico were 2-0 winners on their way to winning the title.

Argentina are ranked 31st in the world and Mexico 35th, but the Mexicans went into the match as clear favourites with even Argentine coach German Portanova playing down his team’s chances, saying they were in a rebuilding phase and couldn’t domestically match the intensity of Mexico’s LigaMX and the depth of players it was producing for the national team.

The match opened evenly but was soon to become one-way traffic. On 7’ Mexico won their first corner. As the ball was swung in teasingly by Maria Sanchez, Varnina Preininger handballed. The referee pointed straight to the spot.

What had started as a cagey game of possession-based cat and mouse suddenly looked to have moved in Mexico’s favour with the first real threat in either goalmouth.

Mexico captain Rebecca Bernal stepped and hit her shot horribly wide of Laurina Oliveras’ left post. It was a ugly miss that they would later regret.

If the penalty advantage had not been taken, certainly Mexico had taken the initiative.

On 11’ a Mexico free kick was turned out for a corner which in turn was cleared to Alexia Delgado whose shot was blocked. Mexico were suddenly attacking in waves with the pace of Jacqueline Ovalle on the left wing and the strength of Stephany Mayor causing Argentina’s right side all kinds of problems.

On 24 Ovalle beat her defender and drove along the goalline, crossing to Charly Corral who hit her shot straight at Oliveras. It was a pattern that started to repeat itself.

On 30’ Argentina had a corner of their own. Mexico countered and the ball across the box found Maria Sanchez open in the middle of the box only to hit her shot in Oliveras.

Argentina were now starting to grow into the game and build pressure of their own. A series of three Yamila Rodriguez corners almost found an opener from a Mariana Laroquete header.

At the other end a beautiful swinging free kick into the box from Sanchez was criminally missed by Mexico’s forwards.

In added time Ovalle was felled on the left hand corner of the Argentina box. Swinging in the free kick Greta Espanola headed over to end the half.

Suddenly it looked like the penalty miss was going to be significant.

The second half started as the first had finished with Mexico in possession.

On 56’ a double miss from Sanchez, her first shot blocked and her return header over the bar, summed up Mexico’s predicament. For all their possession, Mexico couldn’t get behind Argentina’s obdurate defensive line.

On 65’ another free kick from the left found Bernal angling in at the back post only to send her first time volley flying over the top.

The chances kept coming. On 79’ Ovalle had another shot saved, two minutes later Sanchez won a corner only for Espanola to hit it over. On 89’ another flowing Mexico move saw Jasmine Casarez push her shot wide shooting back across the goal.

Argentina were unflinching in their one-on-one defensive battles crucially denying Mexico the pace.

Deep into added time 22 headed wide, it was the last move the match.

Both teams return on Wednesday, Mexico face Puerto Rico and Argentina meet the USA.

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