GLENDALE, ARIZ – Mexico coach Jose Manuel de la Torre trusted this group stripped of its European-based stars to produce against Denmark. They responded in every category except the final result.
Andreas Cornelius converted a penalty he won after 85 minutes to lift Denmark to a 1-1 draw on Wednesday night. The late equalizer canceled out Marco Fabian's penalty after 67 minutes and left the sides to share the result despite Mexico's superiority for much of the evening.
De la Torre will herald the return of Giovani dos Santos, Andres Guardado and Javier Hernandez given the dearth of precision displayed in the final third, but this Liga MX -fueled group showed enough to complicate his thought process as he ponders his squad for the Hexagonal opener against Jamaica on Wednesday.
This mix of regulars and hopefuls wasted no time trying to press their claims in the early stages of this affair. Mexico pressured high early in its 4-4-2 formation and sent its fullbacks up the flanks to force the Danes into conceding possession. The gambit allowed Mexico to pin the Danes back and search earnestly for the opener.
A dearth of quality service in the final third limited the productivity of those forays, though. Javier Aquino forced a fine save from Jesper Hansen with his deflected effort after 16 minutes. Kris Stadsgaard subsequently pushed Angel Reyna's low cross onto the near post just after the half hour in the Mexicans' closest bid to opening the scoring before the interval.
De la Torre inserted Fabian for Oribe Peralta after halftime and switched to his preferred 4-2-3-1 setup in a bid to procure the necessary quality in the final third. Fabian floated around and prompted issues for the Danish defense shortly after his arrival, but the Danes held firm and started to ask questions by improving after the interval.
Danish substitute Michael Silberbauer should have opened the scoring after 67 minutes after finding himself in space on the edge of the penalty area, but he skewed his shot wide from a promising position.
The miss proved costly less than a minute later as the bright Aquino won a penalty kick. The Villarreal winger used his speed to slide inside of Mikkel Kirkeskov on the right edge of the penalty area. Kirkeskov bundled him over just outside the area, but referee Chris Penso pointed to the spot. Fabian dispatched the resulting penalty with a rasping drive into the upper left corner to set Mexico on a path to victory.
Penso altered that calculus five minutes from time by awarding a second soft penalty after Jorge Torres Nilo nudged Andreas Cornelius. The towering target man fell to the ground and prompted Penso to point to the spot. Cornelius assumed the duties from the spot and slotted home inside the left post to give Denmark a share of the spoils.
The final whistle induced howls from the crowd at the final whistle, but the manner of the performance - if not the final result - will give de la Torre plenty to ponder as he starts his preparations for the Jamaicans.