Mexico - World Cup 2014 Team Profile
Sean O'Conor reports
Road to Brazil
El Tri began smartly enough with six wins out of six in their third round group, but then endured an utter nightmare in getting to the finals, winning only once at their Azteca fortress in the final round and finishing fourth in the far from arduous region of CONCACAF.
Thanks to the USA netting twice in injury time away to Panama in their final match, Mexico scraped into the intercontinental play-off with New Zealand and avoided missing out on the finals for the first time since 1990.
The All-Whites were no match for a Mexico made up of domestically-based players, who won 9-3 on aggregate to end the most dispiriting World Cup qualifying campaign in their history on a bright note.
Mexico Kit 1
Mexico Kit 2
It had all looked so rosy for the Mexicans when their Olympic eleven won gold at London 2012. But a poor start to their final round of CONCACAF qualifiers soon became a disaster as they won only one of their first eight games and lost crucial ties away to Costa Rica and the US and at home to Honduras.
Three coaching changes were made in six months and only a last-gasp rescue courtesy of old nemesis the USA let Mexico slip in through the back door to Brazil, thanking their lucky stars (and stripes).
The emotional damage done by the qualification from hell has not yet fully healed, and there is little belief that the team can go far in the competition, but they are at about the same level as first-round foes Cameroon and Croatia and advancement is certainly within their grasp.
Herrera tends to play a 5-1-2-2 shape with a slew of players from his former club America, who will be used to each other’s movements.
35 year-old former Barcelona man Rafael Marquez is the anchor and at centre back are Porto's young Diego Reyes and Hector Moreno of Espanyol.
True to Herrera's attacking instincts, he looks sure to pick a pair of his former America employees at wing-back - Paul Aguilar and Miguel Layun. Another America star Juan Carlos Medina is at the heart of the midfield with Porto's Hector Herrera darting from box to box and Leon's motor Carlos Pena tasked with storming forward.
Giovani Dos Santos will buzz around up front with America's Oribe Peralta or Manchester United's Javier Hernandez the striker. Former Arsenal striker Carlos Vela fell out with the Mexican F.A. and has not been considered, but there is 23 year old Raul Jimenez, another America starlet who won gold in London.
The defence shipped eleven goals during qualifying and will surely ship a few more in Brazil as they are not blessed with pace and can be left vulnerable to the counter when Aguilar and Layun join the attack.
The midfield looks too lightweight to prevail against the power of Brazil or the guile of Luka Modric but they have some weapons up front. Victory against Cameroon in their opener would boost their morale before facing the hosts, but the last game against Croatia is their cup final.
Key player: Giovani Dos Santos
After failing to nail down a place with Tottenham Hotspur, the mercurial winger has found consistency in Spain with Mallorca and now Villareal, but when he pulls on the green jersey of Mexico he is often electrifying. Given the freedom to attack, he can be one of the most exciting fantasistas in the game and a match-winner for Mexico.
One to watch: Oribe Peralta
Oribe Peralta is far less known than Chicharito worldwide because he plays in the Mexican league, but many back home rate this rangy centre-forward more highly than the little pea. Scorer of two game-winning goals in the 2012 Olympic final and five over two legs in the play-off final against New Zealand.
Coach: Miguel Herrera
America manager Miguel Herrera was called in to rescue the team after three other managers had failed to steady the sinking ship in the qualifiers. His buoyant and at times abrasive personality seems to have done the trick, as Mexico have started to win games again. Herrera has won fans over by speaking his mind to the media and choosing domestic over overseas-based players, although doubts remain about his and his players' ability to keep their cool when up against it, and the honeymoon could come to an abrupt end if things start to go wrong.
FIFA World Ranking 20th (June 2014)
Quarter Finals 1970, 1986: Second Round 1994, 1998, 2002, 2006, 2010; First Round 1930, 1950, 1954, 1958, 1962, 1966, 1978.
A relatively painless first round draw in Group A has eased the agony of their worst qualification campaign on record, and while Cameroon look beatable, Herrera's team still need to pull out all the stops to dominate the Croatian midfield in what looks like their key clash.
Confidence and results have improved, and the emphasis on attack is encouraging, but there are still too many shortcomings in the team, not least their vulnerability to the counter. If El Tri advance behind Brazil, it is impossible to see them beating the winner of the group containing Spain, the Netherlands and Chile in the second round. Mexico, that ever dormant soccer volcano, seem branded with the tag of the Round of 16.
2014 World Cup Squad
Goalkeepers: Jose de Jesus Corona (Cruz Azul), Guillermo Ochoa (Ajaccio), Alfredo Talavera (Toluca)
Defenders: Miguel Layun (America), Carlos Salcido (TIgres), Paul Aguilar (America), Andres Guardado (Bayer Leverkusen), Hector Moreno (Espanyol), Francisco Javier Rodriguez (America), Diego Reyes (Porto), Rafael Marquez (Leon)
Midfielders: Miguel Angel Ponce (Toluca), Jose Juan Vasquez (Leon), Luis Montes (Leon), Hector Herrera (Porto), Isaac Brizuela (Toluca), Marco Fabian (Cruz Azul), Carlos Pena (Leon)
Strikers: Oribe Peralta (America), Javier Hernandez (Manchester United), Giovani Dos Santos (Villareal), Raul Jimenez (America), Alan Pullido (Tigres)