Mexico headed into the Hex with a clear conscious of what was ahead. They trampled the 3rd round with six straight wins and everything looked to be lining up for El Tri. Fast forward to 9/10/2013, Mexico walked off the pitch in Columbus with signs of physical and mental defeat.
What happened? How could Mexico go from raising the Gold cup and Olympic Gold to an unrecognizable team? You could point to overconfidence, but overconfidence is usually remedied after a mediocre game. A spark usually pursues after an unexpected result.
If I were to point to the obvious, it of course was not letting Chepo de la Torre go when it was the appropriate time. It feels like ages for how long the team was not responding to Chepo, and that my friends, is a cancer. Not necessarily Chepo himself, but the circumstances of a regime going past its expiration date. To be fair to Chepo…it happens. The U.S. parted ways with Bob Bradley, not because he was a bad coach, but because the cycle was over.
This is a direct failure from the FMF and there is no two ways about it. The extra confidence in Chepo was like covering a major gash with a bandaid. This, in my honest opinion, can be traced back about a year ago. After the glory of the Gold in London, a dissension subtly began. There was an obvious separation between two generations. Mexico’s U-23 players, who were worthy of Senior team status, were praised by the country. The Senior side then responded by losing a friendly in our beloved Azteca. A fluke? Possibly, but the repercussions are being felt. The wins in the 3rd round of WCQ were great, but they didn’t do anything but prolong the agony of losing for the first time to the U.S. at home.
Jamaica would then come into Azteca and play as if they were at home. No fear in Mexico, no worry about losing, and walked away with a historic draw. Since that point, Mexico never regained its confidence. Chepo began calling random players, many of which were past their prime, and it showed. His tactics grew stale, Mexico was lethargic, and everyones worries grew exponentially.
The majority of the fan base saw what I saw, and believed what I believed. If things went as planned, we would see a Mexico national team filled with the U-23 side meshed with our Euro stars. Yet, several declined to play under Chepo’s control, and “veterans” continued to get their regular calls.
Chepo being canned wasn’t going to spark a huge 180. The team was already discouraged. The team was defeated. You could see it after the USA’s first goal. The team in 2011 looked angry, wanted revenge after going down…by two goals! The team yesterday team looked around, walked back, and re-kicked the ball.
Tena just recycled Chepo’s coaching, and the dreaded “jugamos como nunca y perdimos como siempre” rang true.
We know the talent Mexico has, which is what hurts the most. Losing games which you know you can dominate in several aspects is gut-wrenching. I can honestly say that I have never seen such a talented team give away their dream.
Mexico is now in a situation that has us all scratching our heads over. Mexico vs Panama is going to be a fight. But not a fight for Brazil…a fight for New Zealand. A new coach will be named, and new era will begin, and we will see if Mexico is ready to possibly right the wrongs. Do I believe Mexico can look revamped and taken on the rest of WCQ/New Zealand without doubts? Yes. I believe so, and we all saw what Uruguay did in 2010 after qualifying through playoff.
However, if we see a similar mentality to that which we saw against Honduras, Jamaica, USA…Mexico will be watching the 2014 World Cup in their living rooms.