I wrote an article earlier about the flaws of the Mexican defensive set up. One thing I didn’t cover in that article was their problems in defending corners, something that has become obvious as I watch more of their games.
I will focus my analysis on the Italy and England games because that is where the problems are most apparent. This article is a bit on the long side but I did not want to leave out anything important.
As shown in the image above, Mexico(in green) use a zonal marking system when defending corners. Even though England have one player at the near post, Mexico has two players stationed there because that is their zone. England only have 4 players in the penalty box and Mexico has 7, all picking up a zone.
A short description of zonal marking from here:
“The idea behind zonal marking is that there are danger areas from which most goals are scored. An obvious danger area is the near post, where attackers will try to win flick-ons that can either directly end up in the goal or can cause chaos that leads to a goal. Having a marker who is stationed always at the near post and who knows that it’s his responsibility to defend that area sounds fairly logical. Another danger area might be identified as the middle of the six yard box, so again you might want one of your tallest best defenders stationed in that zone. “
The other thing about the Mexican zonal system is that as soon as the corner is delivered, the defenders push forward to try and create offside situations if there are knock-downs and flick-ons . The Mexican defense is at a height disadvantage against most teams so zonal marking does make sense for them as they can’t match up man-for-man against tall, physical teams.
Now to the problems
As shown below, England’s first goal comes from a Peter Crouch knockdown. The player at the far post has no realistic chance of winning the header against Peter Crouch. You should be aware of the fact that according to the theory of zonal marking, the far post is not considered a danger area which is why there is only one Mexican defender near Crouch. So the focus of the Mexican defense should be on winning the second ball. Ledley King makes a late run into the 6 yard box anticipating the knockdown and has a free header.The player who was with him initially has not tracked his run because this is not his job. He has to stay in his zone. It is the Mexican defender nearest to King in the 6 yard box who is guilty of ball-watching and not covering his zone properly. It is possible that England rehearsed this routinely specifically to take advantage of the uncertainty in the Mexican’s zonal marking system.
The second England goal is from a short corner. One Mexican defender moves out to close down Gerrard and the other two defenders, instead of staying in their zones, quickly move forward to try to play Rooney offside(as we would expect). The problem is that the player on the far post does not move forward with them as he is too concerned about Peter Crouch (probably because of what happened in the first goal).This far post defender plays Rooney onside and this leads to a free header in the 6 yard box, with Crouch scoring the rebound. So again this is a blown assignment, with one player not carrying out his role properly.
More problems are seen in the Italy game as shown in the video below. From the image above we can see that once again Mexico(in green) are concentrating their attentions on the near post and the 6 yard box (the most dangerous zones). As seen in the video at 00:12,the problem starts with the player at the near post failing to win the first ball. This critical error is then compounded by the players protecting the middle of the 6 yard box moving towards the ball instead of staying in their zones. This leaves 3 Italian players free in the 6 yard box and Italy really should have scored (they end up hitting the bar).
When Italy do score in the 2nd half, the ball passes through the zones of 3 Mexican players but all of them mistime their jumps. The ball comes to the feet of an Italian player who was space to shoot. The ball ricochets and eventually a goal results from the chaos. This is just poor defending.
In conclusion, if Mexico don’t improve their defending of corners they will be found out by physical teams with well rehearsed routines. Zonal marking on corners has a high margin of error so such mistakes will probably lead to goals. Mexico may find themselves dominating games but still losing due to their poor defense of corners.