Mexico are one of the most disappointing teams in World Cup history. A football-crazed country of 110 million should put in more respectable performances in the World Cup. Yet, their performances have been consistently disappointing and almost entirely predictable. Playing in the CONCACAF, Mexico never have any trouble qualifying to the tournament; they have reached 14 of 19 tournaments—a highly respectable record. But it is what they do in the World Cup that is the problem. In the last four tournaments they put in largely mediocre games and got eliminated at the second round. Historically, things aren’t much better: in seven previous tournaments, they were eliminated in the first round. In the other two occasions, when they hosted the World Cup in 1970 and 1986, they failed to make it past the quarter-finals stage.
The country always has great hopes for its team. The fans get behind them and travel to the end of the world to loudly cheer for them. But they never fail to disappoint. This time, like every time, there is a Mexican belief that things will be different. Will they?
Mexico do happen to have some decent players: captain Rafael Marquez plays for Barcelona, and until this season’s spectacular rise of Gerrard Pique, was an impressive first-teamer. Francisco Rodriguez and Carlos Salcido are decent defenders with PSV in Holland. Left-winger Andres Guardado has been impressive with La Coruna, though he may not start.
Upfront, Giovanni Dos Santos and Carlos Vela are very talented young players, though they have yet to live up to their potential. The first was sold from Barcelona to Tottenham Hotspur, from where he was loaned out to Ipswitch Town, of all places, and then to Galatasaray in Turkey. Vela is in Arsenal, but has failed to break into the first team regularly. And of course, it wouldn’t be a Mexico World Cup team if it didn’t have one aging suspiciously unfit yet surprisingly prolific goalscorer in the Blanco, Borgetti, Hermosillo, and Hernandez mold. The honor this time falls to Guillermo Franco. As if to parody the tradition, however, Mexico seem to have unearthed the remnants of Cuauthtemoc Blanco himself and reanimated them to be hauled to sit on the bench.
Mexico’s run-up to the World Cup has not been bad. They lost to England 3-1 at Wembley in spite of playing very well and dominating possession. They then put in a not very bad game in losing to the magnificent Dutch 2-1, and then beat champions Italy 2-1.
As for their tactics, having not watched them a lot, I’ll defer to Zonal Marking, the best football tactics website around in its assessment:
“Mexico’s system seems organised yet fluid, and very difficult to play against. Although they lost 3-1 at Wembley, they dominated the ball and created more genuine goalscoring opportunities. If they are to get to the knockout stages in South Africa they will need improvements at both ends – their centre-backs must be more dominant in the air, and they cannot afford to waste such glorious goalscoring chances. The latter issue is probably the key – either Carlos Vela or Giovani dos Santos need to step up and demonstrate their full potential – if they can do that, Mexico could progress.”
Mexico may surprise everyone, but one can’t help think that the most likely outcome is the one that always happens: elimination in the second-round; this time, like last time, at the hands of Argentina. But with tricky France and Uruguay in their group along with hosts South Africa, there is a serious chance that the Mexicans might really find that this time is different: they won’t even make the second round.
Only time, as it so reliably does, will tell.
Squad List with link to player profiles on Fifa.com:
- 2 Francisco RODRIGUEZ
- 3 Carlos SALCIDO
- 4 Rafael MARQUEZ
- 5 Ricardo OSORIO
- 12 Paul AGUILAR
- 15 Hector MORENO
- 16 Efrain JUAREZ
- 19 Jonny MAGALLON
- 7 Pablo BARRERA
- 9 Guillermo FRANCO
- 10 Cuauhtemoc BLANCO
- 11 Carlos VELA
- 14 Javier HERNANDEZ
- 17 Giovani DOS SANTOS
- 21 Adolfo BAUTISTA
- 22 Alberto MEDINA