Herrera’s Mexico chase Gold Cup crown instead of Copa America
This summer, Mexico face a battle on two fronts as they go north for the CONCACAF Gold Cup in Canada and USA, but first must travel south across the Andes and Atacama Desert for the Copa America in Chile.
Commanding both Aztecs armies will be passionate leader and manager Miguel Herrera, who became one of the iconic figures of the 2014 World Cup in Brazil with his eccentric and jubilant celebrations.
However, Herrera, who has been one of the longest serving Mexico bosses in recent years since being appointed in 2013, has pinpointed a preference to the Gold Cup over the Copa America due to El Tri’s past success in that competition.
That means, he will pick two completely different squads of 23 for the two tournaments, with the former beginning just three days after the final of the latter.
Mexico’s football federation have already outlined their high expectations for both competitions, saying they aim to reach the semis at the Copa America and win the Gold Cup. They are 20/1 with Coral to go all the way in the former.
Herrera has stated he has the players to compete in both, saying: “Of course we have the material to put together two very good national teams.” However, it remains to be seen how the Aztecs fare in a hectic summer, which also includes an Under-23 team (plus three over-aged players) for the Pan America Games.
Mexico certainly have a history of being cut-throat with their managers, and Herrera will no doubt be meticulously working out how to balance two different squads that can succeed in two highly competitive tournaments.
The likes of high-profile players Javier Hernandez, Hector Herrera and Carlos Vela have all missed out on the Copa America, but that does not mean Herrera hasn’t taken a few star names to Chile.
Another hero of the World Cup, Guillermo Ochoa, has not been favoured for club (Malaga) or country since the Brazil finals, and can get the chance to really put himself back on the footballing map if he impresses again. But it is Cruz Azul stopper Jose de Jesus Corona who has been selected for the Copa America, meaning Ochoa is Herrera’s pick for the Gold Cup.
Legendary Rafael Marquez, who hasn’t been called up for Mexico since the World Cup due to moving to Serie A side Hellas Verona in the summer, meanwhile, is in the Copa squad. The 36-year-old centurion has still yet to call time on his international career, and this will likely be his swansong for his nation, where he should be named captain.
Dos Santos brothers, Giovani and Jonathan, will not be separated for Mexico’s expeditions, as they miss out on the Copa squad, but Europa based duo Javier Aquino and Jesus Corona are still excellent additions.
El Tri certainly seem to have most of their talent in attack, which means Atletico Madrid’s Raul Jimenez will head to Chile too, as Oribe Peralta, Hernandez and Vela are seemingly the favoured forwards for the Gold Cup.
Mexico have done well over the years in their eight Copa America appearances, reaching the semis at least on five of those occasions, so they will certainly be under pressure to do well, especially as they failed to progress through the group stage last time out.
This year, they are in a pool with hosts Chile, Ecuador and Bolivia, and they are capable of finishing at least second, which would automatically qualify them for the quarters, despite having a much-weakened squad.
Herrera has perhaps the hardest job in football this summer, and he is going to need a lot of strength, character and a hint of craziness – characteristics all of which he possesses – in order to spur on his two battling teams.
He proved at the World Cup his side have what it takes to battle against the odds, drawing to Brazil and taking the Netherlands all the way until conceding two late goals against them.
Mexico’s squad of 23 for Copa America:
Goalkeepers: Jesus Corona (Cruz Azul), Edgar Meliton Hernandez (Veracruz), Alfredo Talavera (Toluca).
Defenders: Rafael Marquez (Hellas Verona), Gerardo Flores (Cruz Azul), Julio Cesar Dominguez (Cruz Azul), Adrian Aldrete (Santos Laguna), Hugo Ayala (Tigres UANL), George Corral (Queretaro), Efrain Velarde (Monterrey), Carlos Salcedo (Guadalajara), Luis Fuentes (Pumas UNAM).
Midfielders: Mario Osuna (Queretaro), Javier Guemez (Tijuana), Juan Carlos Medina (Atlas), Marco Fabian (Guadalajara), Miguel Herrera Equihua (Pachuca), Javier Aquino (Rayo Vallecano).
Forwards: Raul Jimenez (Atletico Madrid), Eduardo Herrera (Pumas UNAM), Matias Vuoso (Jaguares Chiapas), Enrique Esqueda (Tigres UANL), Jesus Corona (Twente).