Well, its time again for some El Tri action. It’s time to start the road to 2015 and the challenges coming up. Below is the roster Herrera and co. put together for the friendlies against Chile (Sept. 6) and Bolivia (Sept. 9):
Goalkeepers: Ochoa, Muñoz
Defenders: Maza, Ayala, Layún, Paul Aguilar, Mier, Ponce, Oswaldo Alanís, Miguel A. Herrera, Luis Venegas
Midfielders: Guardado, Aquino, Fabián, Herrera, Vázquez, Antonio Ríos, Rodolfo Pizarro
Forwards/Strikers: Giovani dos Santos, Peralta, Javier Orozco, Erick ‘Cubo’ Torres
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.
Mexico has fought its way to 2nd in Group A, sitting with Brazil at 4 points. Come Monday, Mexico will face 3rd in the Group, Croatia, in a do or die match.
Croatia is coming off a 4-0 thrashing of Cameroon. However, the scoreline is a bit deceptive to the eye, as Cameroon gave up three goals after Song received a red-card in the first half.
Brazil is all but through to the knockouts, which means its a battle for the round of 16 between Mexico and Croatia. It makes things a little bit easier for Mexico as they only need a tie to advance, and Croatia must win to advance. Though don’t think for a second that Piojo as instilled a “lets just tie” mentality into the minds of El Tri.
Croatia is a very talented side, especially with Mandzukic returning. Yet, they do lack speed and condition in the defense. During the match against Cameroon, the Croatians were doing their best to find breaks in the match, and Recife doesn’t project cool and calm weather. It will be muggy and hard on the endurance, which should favor Mexico.
It should also be noted that Croatia has been making some fairly overconfident comments heading into the match. Modric claimed that Mexico is not at the level of Croatia, and that Ochoa is not as good as people are claiming.
The manager of Croatia has also made statements saying that Mexico has been figured out, and that they should claim the three points without problem.
Big words have been said, but on Monday, it all goes down on the pitch. This is the time when Mexico can show that they aren’t here by accident.
Goalkeepers: Talavera, Muñoz
Defenders: Márquez, Layún, Maza, Valenzuela, Ponce, Aguilar, Rogelio Chávez
Midfielders: Peña, Brizuela, Fabián, Luis Montes, Medina, Zavala
Forwards: Jiménez, Pulido
Mexico takes on the U.S. on Wednesday (4/2) in Glendale, AZ.
2013 was a very disappointing year for El Tri. World Cup qualification was nerve wracking, the Confederations Cup was a bust, and the Gold Cup was all but glorious. However, none of that matters now that it is 2014. It is the year of the World Cup, and right now, Mexico is one of the 32 teams heading to Brazil. With new management and a new vision in place, Mexico has nothing to do but look ahead.
Success outweighs failure since 2010
It is not hard to look at 2013 a feel a bit uncomfortable about the upcoming World Cup. With a very favorable schedule to qualify, Mexico did anything but look solid. Yet, many are forgetting what Mexico has accomplished since the last World Cup. The 2011 Gold Cup was a terrific accomplishment, beating the USA 4-2 after being down 0-2 early in the game. Later that year Mexico would reach 9 in FIFA rankings, and finished the year with only one loss. In 2012, more accomplishments came El Tri’s way. The Gold medal win over Brazil was monumental. It was a victory on foreign territory, with a full Liga MX line up, not to mention against a stacked Brazilian opponent. It just so happens that a lack of leadership and organization plagued Mexico in 2013. But that is over. There is a new leadership, and over the past 3+ years, Mexico can feel confident that their talent will be there in the big games.
5 months to organize
There will be a slew of friendlies for Mexico before the World Cup, which means Herrera and crew has a lot of time to tweak the roster. With momentum finally catching up with El Tri, the confidence has slowly started to restore itself. Moreover, with the weight of qualification is off of the squads shoulders, all that is left is to play their game. The pressure is off, but there is work to do..and the team knows that.
The year started off very ugly, but it did end on a bit of a positive note. As I mentioned in a previous article, guys like Peña are making the roster easier to select. With an increased work rate and understanding of the game, Mexico is little by little removing those question marks on the starting XI. Now, include the Euro’s and top-caliber of Liga MX, and El Tri could very easily have a depth that we haven’t seen since 2011. It is no longer “who has experience” but “who is performing” which is a refreshing take with this Mexico side.
Mexico’s first test is against South Korea on January 29th (Alamodome).
On December 6th, the world watched as the draw was made for the FIFA World Cup. Mexico was drawn into a difficult group with Cameroon, Brazil (Host), and Croatia. However, at the end of the draw, Mexico looks to have the best chance to advance from their group as a CONCACAF representative. Moreover, Mexico’s group might be just the right balance of comfort and difficulty to make a run in 2014.
Currently ranked 59th in the FIFA rankings, Cameroon is Mexico’s first foe in the World Cup. Cameroon qualified fairly easily, but has had some suspect results in 2013. In the 2014 Africa cup of Nation’s qualification, Cameroon has lost to both the Congo and Gabon. It is hard to gage how powerful Cameroon will be but they will be lead by Samuel Eto’o. However, with a lack of marquee victories, Mexico shouldn’t feel overly intimated facing Cameroon, but also shouldn’t believe it will be a walk in the park.
Well…they are the dreaded top dog of the group. Mexico had been in Brazil’s group for the 2013 Confederations Cup and lost 0-2. Brazil would go on to win the Confederations Cup with a 3-0 victory over Spain. This will be a very difficult game for El Tri, but that doesn’t mean points are impossible. In their matchup in 2013, Brazil scored early and Mexico missed several opportunities to tie it up. Brazil’s second goal came on a defensive error and late in the game. Moreover, the Mexico side was at the time, in an ugly rut. A motivated Mexico can still fight for a positive result, and El Tri has had excellent matches against Brazil over the past few years. Brazil’s coach, Luiz Felipe Scolari, even called Brazil vs Mexico a “classico,” so expect a target on Mexico’s back. That being said, this should be the most anticipated match of Group A.
A Top-20 side, Croatia has a very talented team in this group. Being the final rival for Mexico in group play means that these two could be fighting for the second spot to advance. Lead by big names like Srna and Mandžukić, Croatia are a quality European side. Expect this match to be a very physical one, which means it could all come down to one goal. Croatia may even be favorited to advance in this group, but if Mexico catches its fire from 2011/12, the Croatians may have a lot to handle.
Mexico opens up their World Cup group play on June 13, 2014 against Cameroon.