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Mexico vs Iceland international friendly; World Cup qualifiers kick off at festive Levi’s Stadium

Andres Guardado gets the surprise start for El Tri, one day after his fitness was called into question by head coach Juan Carlos Osorio

Mexico and Iceland kick off their international friendly at Levi’s Stadium on March 23, 2018
Robert Jonas | Center Line Soccer

SANTA CLARA, Calif. — Under clear skies at sold-out Levi’s Stadium, Mexico and Iceland kicked off their international friendly on a cool Friday night in the South Bay. Both national teams have qualified for the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia, and the match served as a tune-up for both squads as the tournament’s start is now less than three months away.

Mexico, coached by Juan Carlos Osorio, a tactician with an almost obsessive attention to detail, put together a lineup that featured Raul Jimenez at forward and veteran captain Anres Guardado at midfielder. The CONCACAF Hex winners also gave goalkeeper Jesus Corona the start between the posts.

For Iceland and head coach Heimir Hallgrímsson, the chance to face Mexico proved a worthy opportunity to see how a fast and technical side plays the game. Iceland plays Argentina in its World Cup opener this June; they’ll play Peru next week as an additional chance to work through their tactics.

The island nation of less than a third of a million citizens has been accused of punching above its weight on the international football scene, but they showed no fear against Mexico. Iceland captain Aron Gunnarsson lead the way for the boys in blue in front of a Levi’s Stadium crowd that was decidedly pro-Mexico.

Iceland was missing a key player in attacking midfielder Gylfi Sigurdsson, who was injured while playing for his club team Everton. Mexico kept both Carlos Vela and Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez on the bench to start the match.