(Over the next month or so, we’re going to be doing previews for all 32 teams participating in the 2014 FIFA World Cup. Yes, all 32 teams. We’ll make you laugh, cry, get mad and perhaps question why you read us in the first place. We hope you enjoy the product nonetheless)
Mexico had a weird journey to the 2014 FIFA World Cup. And when I mean weird, I mean “HOLY SHIT THEY COULD FRICKING MISS THE WHOLE TOURNAMENT AND LOSE NEARLY HALF A BILLION DOLLARS BECAUSE OF THEIR ABSCENCE”. They were a Graham Zusi goal away from missing the whole tournament all together, and though they made it to the big dance by dusting aside the people’s team known as New Zealand, there’s still much work to be done. They made a meal of it in qualification, only winning twice in qualifying. Multiple managers were sacked as a result, with Club America manager Miguel Herrera being the last man standing. He introduced a 3-5-2 formation with the selection of players mostly consisting of players who played in Mexico. It was successful, and their 23 man squad is a reflection of what Mexico will look like in the World Cup
Goalkeepers: Jesus Corona (Cruz Azul), Guillermo Ochoa (Ajaccio), Alfredo Talavera (Toluca)
Defenders: Paul Aguilar (America), Andres Guardado (Bayer Leverkusen), Miguel Layun (America), Rafa Marquez (Leon), Hector Moreno (Espanyol), Diego Reyes (Porto), Maza Rodriguez (America), Carlos Salcido (Tigres)
Midfielders: Juan Carlos Medina (America), Gallito Vazquez (Leon), Hector Herrera (Porto), Carlos Peña (Leon), Isaac Brizuela (Toluca), Marco Fabian (Cruz Azul), Luis Montes (Leon)
Forwards: Oribe Peralta (Santos), Javier Hernandez (Manchester United), Raul Jimenez (America), Alan Pulido (Tigres), Giovani Dos Santos (Villarreal)
8 of the 23 named Mexico players are from European based clubs. The biggest absentee is Carlos Vela, though that’s been a saga that stretches back a few years. Perhaps the biggest selectee of all is Javier Hernandez, also known as “Chicharito”. It’s fair to say that Chicharito endured the worst season in his Manchester career, adapting to a new manager while not creating the same spark off of the bench as he has in previous years. Maybe the World Cup is exactly what Hernandez needs, a platform to shine and get a decent money transfer out of Old Trafford (he wouldn’t be the first one to use the World Cup to remake his transfer value to other club teams). He’s had a solid track record of goals and shot on target %’s with the Mexican side and the upcoming World Cup tune ups could help solidify his place in the Starting 11.
Alongside Chicharito is Andres Guardado and Giovani Dos Santos, two established players with different skill sets. One is best known for just being tactically versatile, being able to play the Wing or LB. The other is as creative a midfielder as could be. I’m not too sure what position Dos Santos plays, which is part of what makes him so intriguing yet can probably drive a manager nuts, evident by Herrera having troubles fitting where Dos Santos would play in a possible 3-5-2. But he can be an absolute game breaker, and having one of those in a tournament is essential.
The back line is where the questions may come in. Where Guardado might play is a question in of itself but it’ll be lead nonetheless by Rafael Marquez, the former Barcelona man making his fourth World Cup for the Mexican side. He’s 35 years old and it’s fair to ask what he has left in the tank for Mexico. Assuming that no knocks will be acquired in the final friendly matches, he’ll be the first player to captain in four world cups, doing so in 2002, 2006, and 2010. It’s an outstanding achievement considering that this probably will be his last World Cup, short of Mexico storing him in cryogenic freezer and thawing him come 2018 in Russia.
With Mexico, what’s haunted them in the past is the advancement past the round of 16. Not since the 86 World Cup on Mexican home soil have El Tri made it past the Quarterfinals. In the past two tournaments alone have their fate been crushed by Argentina. One by one of the great goals in the history of the tournament. The other was aided by one of the more shady world cup moments in recent memory. Despite the numerous tumbles that presented them during qualifying, they’ve made it to the big dance and that’s the most important part.
Their upcoming tune-up games for the World Cup will give Miguel Herrera ample opportunity to find where the likes of Dos Santos, Guardado, and Chicharito will fit within his formation and the starting 11. With the amount of players selected from Liga MX, continuity will be something Mexico will look to use as an advantage. Mexico have enough talent to make it past their group and perhaps even give their Round of 16 opponent opponent some trouble. For a nation looking to make a statement as a top club in international football, anything short of that elusive quarter final appearance won’t do.