In the last 7 editions of the FIFA World Cup, Mexico has unfailingly reached the Round of 16 (2nd round) including a quarter final appearance in 1986 when it was hosted in Mexico! The only time El Tri failed to make the World Cup in this incredible stretch was in 1990 when the team was banned from taking part in the World Cup because of the Cachirules incident from the FIFA WYC of 1989 when Mexico had problems with using overage players for the youth tournament. Apart from that little blip, Mexico has been a consistent face at the world’s biggest dance! The fans of El Tri are known as some of the most colorful and best travelling fans in world soccer, the team has players who the world loves to see, the Olympic side won the gold medal at the last Olympic games in London by denying Brazil of the one major prize the Seleção have never won, it’s safe to say, Mexico is a big deal!
Here’s how things stand currently in the CONCACAF ‘Hex’ which is the qualifying tournament for the Mundial:
Each team has played 8 games currently which leaves them all with only 2 games each remaining. The top 3 teams qualify automatically while the 4th placed team faces New Zealand in a two-legged encounter. That’s no easy task, the All-Whites were knocked out of the 1st round of the last World Cup in South Arica but they finished that tournament with three draws and were the only side to escape the tournament without a single loss! They are not an easy out. The best bet for any CONCACAF side is to make it straight into the Mundial without having to face the hassle of a determined NZ side. As the table above shows, Mexico is currently in 5th place, behind Panama on Goals Scored. There is no way to sugarcoat this, El Tri face the real prospect of missing the World Cup for the first time in a long time. The unimaginable looks a real possibility right now, the games on October 11th and 15th are more important than ever! First Panama must be beaten convincingly at the Azteca, and then full points must somehow be taken from Los Ticos (Costa Rica) away… Take a deep breath El Tricolor fans, this is going to be a very bumpy ride!
Current coach, Victor Manuel Vucetich, has the unenviable task of getting this team into the Mundial after the failure of Chepo de la Torre. Vucetich is the third Mexcio coach over the last three national team games but he comes with a fine record as one of the best coaches in Mexico after winning the Apertura with Pachuca then Monterrey. The former defensive midfielder knows his onions but handling the Mexican national team is no easy task, this is an entirely different animal ffrom anything he has ever done. These two life-or-death qualifiers have seen him drop Chepo de la Torre’s team captain, Maza Rodriguez from the squad while bringing back in a legend in Rafa Marquez, the uncompromising defender/defensive midfielder who has been in fine form for León. Marquez will bring experience and wisdom to the side and on his day he is still something to behold but he is 34 years old and playing two important games over the course of five days will be quite a test. Also absent from the 26 man squad will be Andres Guardado of Valencia CF and Carlos Vela of Real Sociedad. A Mexican team with all its assets on hand is a fearsome force to be reckoned with, but this El Tri version will lean heavily on the vacillating Giovani Dos Santos as well as a Chicharito who isn’t playing regularly for Manchester United. When you combine that with the direness of the present group situation, the fact that there is a new coach, the pressure the team faces from the Mexican public, plus the strength of the teams left to play (Panama are no slouch, a small country they may be but they are coached by Julio Dely Valdes who was an excellent player for PSG and Malaga and has given this side a belief they lacked before…they beat Mexico not too long ago in the Gold Cup and there is Costa Rica who already took a point from Mexico at the Azteca and who have lost just once and know how to protect their home ground)…it looks really bleak, fans can only hope for a miracle. One game at a time, starting by protecting the home turf against Panama tomorrow, it’ll be tough but El Tri have the pedigree and that simply has to count for something!