The process to the 2014 World Cup was rocky for Mexico, and many believed that Mexico’s reign in the CONCACAF was all but over. This lead to several coaching changes, until Miguel Herrera was signed for the World Cup playoff against New Zealand.
From then on, Mexico began to build up confidence as a team. However, many still believed that the group Mexico was in for the World Cup was just too powerful for this once shattered group of players.
Cameroon had a deadly counter, and Mexico had struggled with South Africa in 2010. Brazil, the obvious, was the host and nearly unbeatable at home. Lastly, Croatia was a young European team with an XI filled with European club stars.
Mexico really was a question mark heading into Brazil, but they came out on June 13th, and showed that they weren’t there by accident. Herrera sent out an El Tri which knew exactly what they wanted to do. They controlled the game against Cameroon, and even when the officiating ripped Mexico off with two incorrect offside calls, Oribe Peralta put Mexico on top. The 1-0 victory over Cameroon gave Mexico the breathe of fresh air they needed, because Brazil was no push over.
Mexico’s game against Brazil would be known as one of the best goalkeeping performances in a World Cup. The controversy over who would be keeper for the World Cup quickly died when Guillermo Ochoa stopped Brazil’s powerful attack. However, Mexico did not lay down for Brazil. They continued to attack, and Herrera sent in attacking subs to try to win the game, but the 0-0 draw was a shocker in group play…and Mexico was just fine with that.
The final match against Croatia was the due or die match of the group. What made matters more interesting for this match was Croatia’s unusual comments about Mexico’s comments heading into the match. The claimed they were better, that Mexico’s knees would be shaking and that Ochoa isn’t the best opponent Mandzukic has faced.
The words were not enough to scare off El Tri. What transpired was one of Mexico’s best World Cup games in recent memory. Not just because they won, but in the fashion they won. They controlled the game, cut out attacks and showed they were the better team…and with patience, the goals arrived.
Looking back at the cup, Mexico appeared to be a real unified team. In 2010, there were players who stood out, and some who faded. But in 2014, this team sang the anthem with their arms on each others shoulders, they played with passion and laid it all on the field. Mexico was not able to reach the 5th game which we all craved, but they also didn’t lose in a dismantled manner. They were never blown out, they didn’t crumble, but sometimes (major) calls don’t go your way.
Looking forward, Mexico fans will see that they have a ton of talent coming up the ranks. With the obvious Chicharito, dos Santos, Ochoa, guardado etc. Vázquez hadn’t even played 5 games with Mexico, but started and didn’t disappoint. His passing percentages were mind blowing, and his absence against the Netherlands was major.
Hector Herrera…where to begin? The guy had people like Rio Ferdinand talking about him. His silky ball control, vision, and pace makes him one of Mexico’s best prospects.
It is a shame and a heartbreak that Mexico was eliminated in the round of 16, while being able to tie Brazil with 7 points in group play. Mexico’s talent, unfortunately, didn’t have enough luck this time around. Yet, the confidence that this team was able to achieve leaves me optimistic for what is to come next.