Four years ago, México’s World Cup ended in typical fashion. But the mood after getting eliminated by Argentina (again) in the first knockout round was one of pride and surprisingly upbeat. The phrase “jugaron como nunca, perdieron como siempre” (they played like never before, but lost, like always) seemed to be the general concensus among El Tri supporters.
In the following years, Mexican football would continue to grow in impressive fashion. Particularly at the youth level. An U-17 championship, Concacaf Gold Cup, and Olympic gold medal later, México had built quite the reputation around the world, and amongst its people. With the qualifying games for Brazil less than a year away, Gio – Vela – Chicharito – Guardado, and Chepo de la Torre at the helm, we were all ready to see México outgrow it’s role as plucky CONCACAF side and become a world power in the game. Then it all went wrong.
Clembuterol. Transvestites. Suspensions. Injuries. And so many other things later, México was looking at the unthinkable as a real possibility. It was quite the fall from new heights and if it wasn’t for the now-worshiped Graham Zusi’s late header, El Tri wouldn’t be flying to Brazil.
With De la Torre’s firing and the subsequent, at the time, temporary, hiring of Piojo Herrera as boss, a lot of uncertainty surrounded the camp.
He would introduce a new system, new players, bring back old ones to play the 3-5-2 formation he now employs. After a few matches, the hiring was
As with any change, time was needed. Players need time to learn a new position and tactics. The coach needed time to see what players were going to fit into his system. Which is probably why he initially began only selecting Mexican players from his most recently coached club CF America. It worked. Mexico won it’s qualification playoff vs New Zealand convincingly and earned a ticket to Brazil.
But up until recently, the learning curve seemed a bit too much for most of the squad. Players like Guardado, Chicharito and Aquino had a hard time adapting and finding their place in the formation. It wasn’t the fast, attacking style that eventually became boring, predictable and easy to defend, and had gotten used to under Chepo. Against Israel in the second half and for most of the game vs Ecuador it became apparent that Herrera is starting to put his stamp on the team.
The wingbacks were used properly and fulfilled the role they were expected to. The midfield versus Ecuador began to click a lot better and players began to express themselves. The possibility of making this formation work began to show. A brilliant passing move through the midfield saw Luis Montes score a beautiful goal that displayed the potential for this squad and brought the game to life. Unfortunately, it was short lived. Any possible positives from this match were overshadowed by Montes suffering a horrible leg break and in the process, causing a knee injury to Segundo Castillo who will also be out of the World Cup.
Again, something threatens to derail the positive vibe in the México squad but it would seem that Herrera has a strong influence on this group of players. Hopefully they can overcome this one like the others and show the world that El Tri is ready.
From a tactical/footballing point of view, México has appeared to simplified their game a little bit. In defense Maza Rodriguez, Rafa Marquez, and Hector Moreno seem to be the preferred options. This is one area which I think is gonna struggle. With the lack of playing time he’s getting at Porto, Diego Reyes has stalled in his development so Piojo has preferred the “age before beauty” approach with Maza and Marquez. I personally fear for what that Brazil and Croatia will likely do to these seasoned vets. Many times versus Ecuador we saw Hector Herrera(cm) have to make professional fouls to avoid a forward running onto goal 1 v 1. Maza had to make a few brutal challenges once he realized he wasn’t going to catch up to the opposing player.
One of the wingback positions seems to be sealed up by Rocket Foot aka Salcido 2.0 aka Miguel Layun. The other one is still up for grabs, it seems. This position will be very important as these players will need to provide with and defend for all 90 minutes. The area of responsibility is huge for both positions because it allows the midfielders and forwards the freedom to go forward with full commitment.
The midfield has constantly shifted throughout the preparation games. I thought Zavala was going to be the player who would take Medina’s spot in midfield when the former went down with and injury but Herrera called up Vasquez who had An impressive campaign at repeating champion Leon. Carlos Peña is probably going to start at cm which leaves Gio. This could be the tournament in which Gio finally proves he is who we thought he was (Danny Green voice). To be successful in attack, México needs him on the ball, creating and making things happen with those often magical feet. Without him at his best, we have no chance.
Last but not least, forwards. I don’t feel like we don’t have good forwards. I just feel like two of them can’t play well enough together to play two of them at the same time. My disdain for Javier Hernandez is not secret. Before you burn me at the stake, it should be noted that I do think he can be useful. If you’re merely asking him to be in the box and wait for the ball. Which is why I feel if you play Chicharito you have to play Gio right behind him and stick a winger in Gio’s spot to provide service. Otherwise, I prefer Peralta who is not as fast as Chicharito but is a lot more versatile and can play well off Gio or Fabian.
All that said, when you break this team down into its individual pieces, it is pretty impressive. Putting it all together and making it flow will be Herrera’s biggest task and if he can, maybe we will be reminded of why we were all excited about this team after 2010. Hopefully they stay away from trannies and the dodgy steak in Brazil.
I usually don’t make score predictions but I’m going to make an exception and say a 2-1 win vs Cameroon a 3-1 loss to Brazil and 1-1 draw vs Croatia. Despite the tough group, I do think México can advance to the elimination games. After that? Bring on the USMNT! Ha
Written by @SDGoon