CONCACAF’s “wannabe” giant gave their final roster list of 23 for this year’s most anticipated Brazil 2014 World Cup, and it’s given us a lot to talk about. Sure it’s not like Argentina’s list back in Germany 2006 where Pekerman had only 3 players playing in Argentina. It’s not like that at all… but in that difference, we find that Mexico may have something going for them, and may be stealthing its way into a pleasant surprise. Brazil 2014 is a bit of an odd situation for Mexico and its national team, and this list, in my opinion, is very ‘a doc.’
In previous World Cups, Mexico has taken advantage of it growing number of European League players, who theoretically should yield better results and bring better ‘futbol’ to the table. Yet in these dire circumstances, the official list only includes 7 European League players, leaving 16 slots for Mexican League players. And this is where the trained eye may see some actual potential.
The Mexican National team is not looking to depend on stardom and big names this World Cup, but is rather looking for a galvanized team with a more ‘rustic’ image. And the effect may be very good. And this is all the doing of a Mr. Miguel Herrera, whose experience as a head coach has taught him to trust in team play a little more than in talented (read: expensive) players.
It all stems from his time at Club America. When he started there, he was given a budget and roster of some very talented and expensive foreign players. He quickly found out that he didn’t need all the bling, rather he just needed a solid group that trusted each other. During his second season, he let go of the big names and started trusting in upcoming stars, which lead him to two straight championship games (of which he took the first in the most epic way).
Mexico’s lower divisions have transformed in the last 10 years or so, not only in physical ability, but most importantly in the psychological realm. Mexico as a nation is not one that is used to constant victories. But in recent years, Mexico has gotten used to winning and winning great. With two U-17 World Cup Championships, Olympic gold, two Gold Cup championships against archrival USA (we’re talking 5-0 and the mythical 4-2 here), and an undefeated 2011-12 run.
That’s why in Mexico the qualifying hex was a complete disaster. 30 years ago it would have been normal, but not today. And in these circumstances, Herrera has injected his team with a dose of reality, and is betting once again on team play rather than on star appearances. Which brings us back to that 2006 Argentina, full of the world’s most amazing players, only to be stopped by a very technical and disciplined Germany (and an awful round of PKs). Regardless… This Mexican roster drives away from that and gives us a group of players that plays well together and that has tasted victory.
Out of the current list, three players will be participating in Mexico’s “Liga MX” final, nine more just played in the quarters and semis. 10 players have been to a World Cup previously.
Herrera said while announcing his list, “…decisions where made with reason, not with the ‘heart’”, and I truly believe that in the context of everything that has happened in the last 8 months heading towards the World Cup, this less flashy Mexican National team may have what it takes to not only advance out of the group stage, but take Mexico into that ever so desired Semifinal match Mexican fans have longed for since ’86 (and presumably beyond).
The final 23:
Why Mexico will be the best CONCACAF team of Brazil 2014
Something sounds terribly wrong with that doesn’t it? I mean, we’re talking about a Mexico National team which won but two out of its 10 qualifying hex games, and only scored seven times in those 10 games. It’s the one team that was out of the world up for about 14 minutes until by the grace of the almighty, and Graham Zusi, who scored in stoppage time against Panama in that final day. Mexicans will always remember that as the day the USMNT became their savior. How is it then that Mexico has the best odds of becoming the best representative of CONCACAF in Brazil 2014? Well… to put it in one word: “Balls!” And not the manly kind, but the lucky balls used in the draft.
You see, out of the four CONCACAF teams (USA, Costa Rica, Honduras and Mexico), Mexico has the easiest group and the best potential to contend against its rivals. Yes, even with its lesser known team, and the USMNT with it’s better-than-ever roster and head coach, it’s a lucky draw which puts Mexico ahead of its regional group.
Even though it would seem being in the same group as Brazil in Brazil sounds as a terrifying situation, it’s the other 2 teams in the group that alleviate the Mexican nationals, and give reason to think that coming out of the group stage is a real possibility.
Brazil, as we can all deduct will come out first in the group. They will easily beat Cameroon and Croatia. But this same deal, is what makes Mexico so strong. Mexico isn’t even thinking of Brazil right now, because in their eyes, the only thing standing between them and the Round of 16 is Croatia and Cameroon. And sadly for all El Tri’s haters, those teams don’t really threaten Mexico. They are very used to playing against African teams and Croatia (although quite technical and disciplined) is not the European rival Mexico dreads. Remember France in 2010? That was a stronger team than Croatia and Mexico battled through with a 2-0 victory.
Mexico really only has to worry about winning against Cameroon and Croatia and let whatever happen happen with Brazil. Ironically though, Brazil’s only headache will be Mexico, it’s most uncomfortable rival to which it has lost multiple titles and championships. They lost the Confederations Cup in ’99, found a strong rival in Copa America’s 2007 match, and most recently they fell once more in a final in the 2012 Summer Olympics. Not to mention the U-17 World Cup in 2007, where both teams have players from that generation playing in this World Cup. In other words, Brazil knows their second match is the real challenge.
That said, as long as Mexico wins its first match against Cameroon, and assuming that Brazil will win it’s game versus Croatia, all they have to do is tie both following games, or lose against Brazil and win against Croatia, or even depending on the result of the Croatia-Cameroon game, even a tie with Croatia would give them a pass to the Round of 16. You still with me?
Do you think Mexico will be the only CONCACAF team to make it out of the group stage? Will the USMNT finally break the spell and beat Ghana to win a second place? Do Honduras and Costa Rica even have a chance? Let us know.
Dan Bonilla wrote this article. A lifelong fan of Club America and El Tri, Dan is obviously from Mexico. While The Van Gundy is a decidedly pro-USMNT site, we can also play well with others.