El Tri

The Mexico National Team.
Photo by Adam Nurkiewicz/Getty Images Sport

Every four years, national pride and footie artistry reach peak levels in a global dance of no small magnitude, the World Cup is here again! This summer, all eyes will be focused on Russia as the 21st World Cup prepares to captivate the globe. With the sport’s best and brightest from 32 lucky nations on display, it’s time to take a look at what each squad brings to the table. We will dive deep beyond the usual team sheets, we’ll scratch beyond the player names, and get you ready to be the smartest on the couch/bar stool for Russia 2018.

Qualifying Record(W-L-D) 6-0-3
Current FIFA World Ranking (May 10) – 15th
World Cup 2014 Finish – Loss to Netherlands 2-1 in round of 16
Russia 2018 Group F (Germany, Mexico, Sweden, South Korea)
Formation – 3-4-2-1
Strengths – Experience, Attacking play
Weaknesses – Health, Midfield
Major Threats – Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez, Hirving “Chucky” Lozano

The number one team in CONCACAF by a wide margin, Mexico enters the 2018 FIFA World Cup with one of its most experienced and talented rosters ever. Its best players are in their primes, but will a tricky group and an unbalanced midfield doom them to an early exit?
Are you a fan of El Tri or just really love the Mexico Jersey? Remember to buy it now before the tournament starts!

Federation Goal for RUSSIA 2018: Mexico has made the group stage in every World Cup they’ve participated in since 1966. They’ve also never made it past the quarterfinals. El Tri has one of their strongest rosters ever, so the goal will be to get out of the group and win their first match in the knockout rounds, so the FMF probably expect a quarter final showing from Juan Carlos Osorio’s men.


We’ll start with the bad bits. Mexico has a decent group of defenders when healthy however the key phrase there is “When Healthy”. Coach Osorio has done everything he can to get the defense fixed with tactical tweaks. In Mexico’s two most recent friendlies, he went as far as to use two screening midfielders, and play what amounted to a back five. Osorio typically plays a 4-3-3, and so we’ll consider his most recent friendlies as simply tinkering, not a sign of things to come however don’t be surprised to see a back five if things get shaky.

Tactical adjustments aside, this amounts to a fitness issue. Nestor Araujo (Knee) and Carlos Salcedo (Collarbone) are both dealing with injuries that look like they may keep them from the playing in the World Cup but they’ll get time to heal as they’re both trusted generals. Both players are crucial to the success of the Mexican Back line. In fact, Salcedo missed last summer’s confederation cup and his loss was felt on the pitch, especially during their 4-1 drubbing by Germany. Oh hey, look at that! Germany is in their World Cup Group! Fancy that happening. Signs are pointing to Salcedo being fit in time to make the trip to Russia, where he’ll deploy as a right back as opposed to centerback where he plays for Frankfurt. Araujo has typically been deployed as his partner on the right side of the defense and his absence would be equally troublesome. A sturdy defender who’s smart about playing out from the back, his versatility is part of the reason Osorio had been toying with different defensive alignments. Diego Reyes would likely take his spot in the lineup should he be unable to go, but Reyes himself has fallen out of favor at his club and has seen limited match time in recent months so his match fitness is a bit of an issue.

If there’s a bright side defensively for Mexico, it’s that the left side is healthy and in form! Miguel Layun went out on loan this winter in search of matches to solidify his standing as first choice left back for the National Team. He’s quickly become a mainstay of the Sevilla squad he joined, notching 14 appearances since January. His passing effectiveness should add to an already potent Mexican attack, but he leaves something to be desired when tracking back on defense. His story mirrors that of his left side Centerback Hector Moreno. Moreno is a no nonsense defender who’s known for his decisive play in the back. An underrated passer, the new Real Sociedad man has found himself a favorite of Osorio over the past two years. Between the pipes will be Guillermo ‘Memo’ Ochoa, the unlikely hero of Mexico’s 2014 World Cup. Of Mexico’s four matches in Brazil, Ochoa was the man of the match in two of them. Quite a feat for a keeper! He may find himself needing to be a hero once again if the guys in front of him don’t get healthy fast!

One name you haven’t heard so far is Rafa Marquez. The Mexican legend had said he is not only willing to play, but many thought he would make the trip to Russia with the potential to play a key role. Then he found himself allegedly connected with a drug trafficking ring. Keep an eye out, because his status remains very much up in the air, both because of skill and legal troubles.

Midfield is the biggest area of concern for Mexico. It’s not for lack of experience, as the players likely to feature here all have spent significant time in Europe’s top leagues. However the trio of Andres Guardado, Hector Herrera, and Jonathan Dos Santos, who’re expected to take the field in Russia don’t offer a balanced midfield. This is not a group that will effectively break up opposition attacks and stop danger before it starts, these guys all want to pour forward in attack. The aforementioned Rafa Marquez did it effectively for many years, but even working under the assumption that he’s legally able to make the World Cup roster, at 39, it’s unlikely he still has the juice to act as a midfield destroyer and his role for quite a while has been that of last line of defense.

Hector Herrera seems the most likely to take on the task. He’s a true box to box midfielder, and he utilizes his pace to help break up plays. At last summer’s Confederation’s Cup in Russia, Herrera was deputized as the defensive minded midfielder, and had moderate success. With a lack of options and versatile skillset, probably first choice for that position once again. With Porto, he spends his time further forward up the pitch, so it is a bit of a role change for him to which he’ll need to adapt to, but he should still be able to utilize his playmaking skills from the deeper lying role. If it’s not Herrera, it’s going to be Jonathan Dos Santos. The LA Galaxy man has played sparingly in that role for the MLS side this season, but has done so as a playmaker as opposed to an enforcer. His passing abilities far outstrip his defensive contributions, and his concentration has been known to wax and wane. He’ll need to be on his game if he’s asked to defend deep. Whichever of these two take on the task, they’ll hope to overcome their defensive deficiencies with their offensive contributions. The saying goes, “The best defense is a good offense”, so welcome to Mexico’s 2018 midfield motto!

Andres Guardado is almost certain to play further up the pitch in a more attacking central midfield role, and that’s position he’s excelled in for years for club and country. His sublime passing sets up those around him, and he’s a gifted set piece specialist as well. The midfield sets the tone for the talents and strategy of the overall Mexico squad. Great playmaking and effectiveness going forward, but concerns about what goes on in their own half. It’s why Osorio has tried to find different formations to help cover some of the personnel deficiencies, but Mexico just doesn’t have the type of player you’d need to play a true single pivot, and its forced Mexico to either put more men back in defense, or give up more defensively in favor of attacking play. They’ll be choosing the latter in Russia.


The prolific Javier ‘Chicharito’ Hernandez.

If there is something lacking in midfield or defense, Mexico plans to make up for it with a devastating attacking band. Supported by a playmaking midfield, this trio of attackers is the strength of the Mexican squad, and it should be a deep group ready to make life miserable for opposing back lines.

Leading the charge is Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez. The Mexican striker has been excelling at the highest levels for years, and enters the World Cup having already cemented his place as his nation’s all-time leading goal scorer. Chicharito has never been the best athlete on the pitch, nor is he a towering behemoth who outmuscles defenders to get off a shot. However, his movement off the ball makes him one of the most effective poachers in the game. Almost all of his goals come from inside the penalty area. He finds space where it seems there isn’t any, and suddenly appears behind the defensive for quality chances. His skillset matches well with the creative abilities of his teammates, and you would expect him to get the ball in position for great shots often. If there is any concern, it’s that Chicharito hasn’t quite been himself this season at West Ham. He’s struggled to find consistent minutes or the back of the net frequently, but the entire West Ham squad seems to be stuck in a malaise. Chicha is the type of player who can easily shake off that rough run of form once he gets into the comfortable surroundings of his national team.

Flanking Chicharito on either side will be Jesus “Tecatito” Corona and Hirving “Chucky” Lozano. Tecatito is a dribbly winger who is known to break down defenses with the ball at his feet as well as with pinpoint passes. He’s not a pure goal scorer, and is as much an attacking midfielder as he is a winger. Whether he’s playing wide of Chicharito or in behind, he’ll be looking for his striker often. Chucky is a different story, The 22 year old has notched 19 goals in all competitions this season for PSV Eindhoven, and is one of the World’s most promising young players. He can play on either side of the attacking band, and is most effective when he gets the ball in his right foot. Don’t expect to see him wowing the opposition with incredible passes, but his agility and skill with the ball at his feet should keep defenders on their heels. If he gets free on his strong foot, he’s likely to score. His development for Mexico has raised the ceiling for what this group of attackers can do, and with another goal scoring threat beside Chicharito, they look to be even more deadly up top than ever before.

GAME by GAME (Germany, South Korea, Sweden)

*Keys to Germany game: Will Mexico be able to even slow down Die Mannshaft’s attack? How will this midfield deal with World Class players like Kroos, Ozil, and others? Can the attack make Germany focus more on defending rather than attacking? Playing effectively in the middle of the pitch will be crucial to Mexico taking points from this match.
Prediction: Loss to Germany

*Keys to South Korea game: Against a team with limited attacking options outside Heung Min Son, how much will Mexico push forward in search of goals? If they drop points to Germany, they’ll need to play wide open in this one to take as many points as possible. If they do, South Korea may not have the structure to defend for 90 minutes, but they will attempt to hit back with counter attacks, specifically to the speedy aforementioned Son.
Prediction: Mexico win

*Keys to Sweden game: Mexico will need to nullify a versatile Sweden attack in order to win. This game may decide who comes out of this group, and a lot of it will depend on Mexico’s defense, not their offense.
Prediction: Mexico wins a close one

El Tri

Mexico’s initial squad for the World Cup.


Here’s the likely Mexico Roster for Russia 2018
GOALKEEPERS (3): Guillermo Ochoa, Jesus Corona, Alfredo Talavera

DEFENDERS (9): Hector Moreno, Miguel Layun, Nestor Araujo, Carlos Salcedo, Diego Reyes, Edson Alvarez, Jesus Gallardo, Hugo Ayala, Rafa Marquez

MIDFIELDERS (8): Andres Guardado, Hector Herrera, Jonathan Dos Santos, Javier Aquino, Jorge “Burrito” Hernandez, Marco Fabian, Omar Govea, Jonathan Gonzalez

FORWARDS (6): Chicharito, Tecatito, Hirving Lozano, Raul Jimenez, Carlos Vela, Oribe Peralta, Giovani Dos Santos

Piece by James Wilkinson, frequent Center Circle writer, an avid fan of Tottenham Hotspur and the USMNT.


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