Mexico mission is to put managerial madness behind them at World Cup
A revolving door was installed in the office of the Mexico national coach last autumn. Four different men held the job in little more than a month as the federation fired Jose Manuel de la Torre, Luis Tena and Victor Vucetich before seemingly settling on Miguel Herrera.
Stability was willingly sacrificed in search of results. It was unthinkable that El Tri might miss out on a Latin American World Cup in Brazil, but that chopping and changing has impacted on their odds.
Coral make Mexico 150/1 outsiders to lift the trophy, and they face a tough group that contains the hosts, Croatia and Cameroon. Herrera’s side start this pool as third-favourites both to get out of it at 6/5, and unlikely winners at 8/1.
The Aztecs are certainly consistent at World Cup finals. On each of their last five appearances, they have successfully negotiated the group stage. They are 9/4 to make the knockout phase and exit the tournament there, but are odds-on at 8/13 to fall at the first hurdle.
It follows that four different managers will have their favourite players, so how can anyone be sure of a place in the 23-man squad for Brazil? Former Arsenal forward Carlos Vela knows he will be watching with the rest of us, because of an unresolved dispute with the federation.
Real Sociedad benefit from this, but a global audience misses out. Vela’s 17 goals for the Basque outfit in all competitions this term show how he would give Mexico extra firepower from the flanks.
Herrera uses wing backs not wide men, however. In each of his six matches in charge of El Tri, he has played 3-5-2. Rafael Marquez, once of Barcelona, acts as sweeper, and the one other constant in the manager’s selections has been a contingent from former side Club America. A total of 10 men from that team have received call-ups.
Picking domestic players from Mexico for the national team got Herrera this gig permanently, and his former club charges did not let him down, as they comprehensively won an intercontinental play-off with New Zealand to reach the World Cup finals.
We are thus bracing ourselves for an Aztecs roster announcement in May, which could contain just seven or eight names that ply their trade in Europe. In other words, two-thirds of Herrera’s squad look set to come from Mexican clubs. It is bold, but his unbeaten record of four wins and two draws is hard to argue with.
Current El Tri tactics should suit several of that minority from overseas. Espanyol’s Hector Moreno joins Marquez and Francisco Javier Rodriguez – better known by his nickname Maza – in the back three. Porto pair Hector Herrera and Diego Reyes, meanwhile, could either be easily accommodated in a holding midfield role.
A 3-5-2 looks tailor-made for Bayer Leverkusen’s left-sided loanee Andres Guardado, who recently racked up a century of Mexico caps. It should also suit lethal striker Javier Hernandez – a bit-part player at Manchester United under David Moyes this term.
Boss Herrera has a pool of six attacking options to choose from his squad. Joining Chicharito are former Spurs forward Giovani dos Santos, faithful retainer Raul Jimenez, experienced striker Aldo de Nigris, top-scorer in qualifying Oribe Peralta and Alan Pulido, who marked his debut by hitting a hat-trick against South Korea.
Herrera is unlikely to pick all of them. Veteran players like centurions Carlos Salcido and Gerardo Torrado have fallen by the wayside; while in goal, Ajaccio’s Guillermo Ochoa must hope a miserable season in France does not end with being dropped from international duty.
Mexico are in the mix in Group A, with fellow play-off qualifiers Croatia and the tournament hosts. They are expected be victorious in their opening game in Brazil against Cameroon, but punters may be surprised to learn they are not odds-on. A 6/5 price to beat the Indomitable Lions looks a great bet for the Aztecs to kick off their World Cup campaign with a win.