Mexico: What to Watch in El Tri's Hexagonal Stage Opener

Karla Villegas Gama@karlitsvFeatured ColumnistFebruary 5, 2013

Photo: Mexsport
Photo: Mexsport

The Hexagonal is around the corner and Mexico has a good chance of grabbing three points in their opener. "El Tri" has an interesting mix of youngsters and experienced footballers plus the advantage of playing at Estadio Azteca.

José Manuel de la Torre is giving this new generation a chance to shine in CONCACAF's toughest competition. The team's average age is just 26.4 years old.

The youngest of them is Diego Reyes, who at age 20, has already signed a contract with Porto FC and is set to leave Mexico next summer.

But Reyes is not the only kid. There are five others that were also called for this match and that were instrumental in winning the Olympic gold medal: Dárvin Chávez, Javier Aquino, Héctor Herrera, Marco Fabián and Giovani dos Santos.

Add Héctor Moreno, Andrés Guardado and Javier Hernández to the list. They have been playing abroad for more than three years in some of Europe's top leagues—Eredivisie, Premier League and La Liga.

There are also some veterans like Carlos Salcido, who at age 32, has appeared 106 times with "Los Verdes" and has played in two World Cups—Germany 2006 and South Africa 2010.

As a group, Mexico has far more experience than Jamaica, and playing on home soil gives them a huge advantage.

The last time "El Tri" lost an official competition at the Estadio Azteca was in a 2002 FIFA World Cup qualifier. Costa Rica scored twice in 14 minutes to win the match 2-1 in an episode now known as "El Aztecazo."

However, the "Reggae Boyz" are going through a generational shift. Eleven of the 23 members called up for the Hexagonal opener have appeared less than 10 times with the national team.

In return, coach Theodore Whitman left Darren Mattocks, Vancouver Whitecaps 2012 top scorer, and Luton Shelton, off his list.

This is good news for Mexico, but it does not mean they can take the match for granted.

Jamaica has players like Adrian Mariappa, a regular defender for Reading. He may not be playing for one of the best teams in the Premier League but has what it takes to stop the Mexican strikers as he has faced some of the deadliest European strikers.

"El Tri" needs to take control of the midfield and keep the ball as much as possible. Andrés Guardado, Giovani dos Santos and Marco Fabián will be key in achieving this.

Javier Hernández will have a lot of coverage, and this will give Oribe Peralta enough space to try some long-distance shots.

Also, keep an eye on José de Jesús Corona. The Cruz Azul keeper has had fantastic appearances with the national team. However, Guillermo Ochoa has also had some spectacular saves with Ajaccio. 

"Paco Memo" was not called up because his girlfriend gave birth to their daughter, but he will appear in the forthcoming games. Thus, Corona must keep up the good work if he wants to retain the starting position.

Mexico must win this game, which will also give us an idea of ​​where the team stands and what changes should be made for the next round against Honduras.