Although it was only a friendly, both Belgium and Mexico put on a show during Friday's 3-3 draw in Brussels. With World Cup preparation on the mind, El Tri manager Juan Carlos Osorio fielded a strong XI in the eventful match that tested the limits of several Mexican players.
Following a brilliant showing from Hirving Lozano, as well as a few other individual performances that helped carry them to an impressive draw, fans should feel hopeful after the much-anticipated clash.
Mexico walked into the game as clear underdogs against some of the most noteworthy and daunting names in football. Away from home, it was easy to assume that Belgium would easily earn a comfortable victory.
Instead, El Tri not only kept pace with the No. 5-ranked team in the world, but also occasionally looked better than the Belgians -- who were lucky to not allow a fourth goal from Mexico in the second half.
That said, the big talking point is, of course, Lozano. After scoring twice, the young PSV player's stock will only continue to skyrocket.
For months, El Tri's backline has continued to look worrisome. Coupled with the fact that Diego Reyes was underwhelming as the defensive midfielder, Mexico showcased a number of problems in their defense.
Osorio still has time to adjust his backline, but also desperately needs options like Carlos Salcedo, Hector Moreno and Reyes to play at a much higher level than they showed on Friday.
Manager rating (out of 10)
8 -- Other than some questions regarding Reyes and Salcedo, Osorio went with a strong starting XI that nearly earned a shocking victory. Mexico did a great job of controlling possession and regularly looked confident, organized and composed.
Player ratings (1-10, with 10 the best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Guillermo Ochoa, 6 -- Despite the fact that he allowed three goals, it's difficult to put the blame solely on Ochoa for more than one of those opportunities. The goalkeeper also provided a handful of crucial saves that helped hide more defensive issues.
DF Carlos Salcedo, 5 -- El Tri needed more than just a couple of dangerous passes from Salcedo. The right-back was fairly absent in the build-up of plays and wasn't much of a threat for Belgium's proactive attack.
DF Nestor Araujo, 6 -- Araujo was caught off-guard a few times defensively, but was also the hardest-working player in the backline. No other player had more clearances, interceptions or tackles than the 26-year-old.
DF Hector Moreno, 5.5 -- An off game for the defender who tends to be much more reliable. Belgium attackers such as Kevin De Bruyne, Romelu Lukaku and Eden Hazard glided past Moreno numerous times in the draw. That said, he should also be given credit for his assist in the second half.
DF Miguel Layun, 7 -- While Salcedo stuttered on one end, Layun took charge on the other. El Tri's left-back was vital with his high-pressing runs that kickstarted a number of plays. Layun also nearly scored off a well-placed shot from distance.
MF Diego Reyes, 4 -- Regardless of the fact that he is more comfortable in the backline, Reyes was poor as Mexico's defensive midfielder. The Porto player failed to assert any control in the middle of the pitch and was at fault for the first goal by Belgium.
MF Andres Guardado, 7 -- El Tri's captain put in a solid shift as one of the more active starters on the field. During the 38th minute, Guardado also scored Mexico's first goal from the penalty spot.
MF Hector Herrera, 8 -- Herrera's good run of form is continuing for club and country. The midfielder emerged as Mexico's most important distributor with his constant and clever passing going forward.
FW Carlos Vela, 6 -- An average performance from Vela. The winger made a handful of daring runs and passes but couldn't contribute much else to the attack.
FW Javier Hernandez, 6 -- Belgium's defense made Hernandez's job difficult on Friday. Despite this, the out-and-out striker found a way to sneak past them on a few occasions and also created the penalty that led to Guardado's goal.
FW Hirving Lozano, 9 -- The hype is real. Lozano worked hard to steal back possession in the first half and provided two goals in the second half. Mexico fans should be thrilled with Lozano's spirit and tenacity on the field.
FW Raul Jimenez, 6 -- Substituted on during the 51st minute for Hernandez. Jimenez tracked back to win the ball and provided a few conservative passes for Mexico.
MF Edson Alvarez, 7 -- Substituted on during the 59th minute for Reyes. A calming and pragmatic presence who was a clear upgrade over Reyes in the center of the pitch.
MF Giovani Dos Santos, 6.5 -- Substituted on during the 60th minute for Vela. Limited time for the LA Galaxy player that helped create a few interesting plays in the second half.
FW Jurgen Damm, 6 -- Substituted on during the 70th minute for Guardado. The winger couldn't find a way to outrun Belgium's defense and was regularly muscled off the ball by Thomas Vermaelen.
MF Jonathan dos Santos, N/A -- Substituted on during the 89th minute for Alvarez.
FW Javier Aquino, N/A -- Substituted on during the 91st minute for Lozano.