Mexico: 5 Key Battles to Watch in El Tri's Qualifier vs. Honduras
Mexico is set to visit Honduras for the second match of the Hexagonal. There are new names compared to those that were capped against Jamaica, and this game requires more precision and focus.
El Tri needs to make a good impression in San Pedro Sula next Friday. The national team could not win its opener against the Reggae Boyz, even though it was held at the Estadio Azteca.
This time, José Manuel de la Torre has called two of the most efficient strikers in the Liga MX: Omar Bravo and Raúl Jiménez. He also capped Gerardo Torrado, who will definitively bring experience to the pitch.
The manager left the defense untouched. Héctor Moreno and Francisco Javier Rodríguez will continue to lead Mexico's backbone.
Honduras is full of young promises like Jerry Bengtson and Mario Martínez. These footballers have been instrumental in the qualification process, proof of it was the last match against the United States.
The encounter between El Tri and La Selecta has always been one of the toughest in CONCACAF, and Mexico has yet to win a game at Estadio Olímpico Metropolitano.
Join me to find out which will be the key battles of the game.
Héctor Moreno vs. Carlo Costly
Mexican defender Héctor Moreno needs to be at his best if he wants to stop Carlo Costly.
A 30-year-old playing for Greek club Veria, Costly has scored 58 times with Honduras since his debut with the national team in 2007.
Moreno is far more experienced than Costly. The Mexican was part of AZ Alkmaar from 2007 to 2011, and then he transferred to La Liga. He currently plays for Espanyol.
Héctor had activity in the 2010 World Cup. He has captained the team in several competitions despite being 25 years old.
The main challenge for Moreno will be Costly's speed and durability. He needs to keep a tight mark over the Honduran to avoid surprises.
Francisco Javier Rodríguez vs. Jerry Bengtson
Jerry Bengtson is in his second season with the New England Revolution, where he has scored three times. A fast and skillful striker, he will try to put Rodríguez in distress.
Bengtson proved his enormous talent in the third round of the CONCACAF qualifier. He had five goals to his count, the second best scorer of the tournament.
He also scored in the opening match of the Hexagonal against the United States.
His experience has earned him the captain armband.
Gerardo Torrado vs. Roger Espinoza
Gerardo Torrado has not played with Mexico since October, when El Tri defeated Guyana 5-0 in the third round of the World Cup qualifier.
At age 33, Torrado is one of the oldest footballers on the team, but this match is key for the team and Gerardo knows how to control and take over the midfield.
The battle in the center of the pitch will put him in front of Roger Espinoza, a 26-year-old who has played for the national team since 2009.
Espinoza plays for Wigan Athletic, and his physical attributes give him a clear advantage over his rivals. He is also a valuable asset in the attacking zone, especially when he sends crosses to the box.
Giovani dos Santos vs. Víctor Bernárdez
Giovani dos Santos has not had a walk in the park when it comes to his club career. But when he plays with El Tri, he becomes a major force.
Dos Santos is skillful, fast and talented. One of the most creative attacking midfielders in the squad, Gio can turn things around with a single play.
His fine touch will give Víctor Bernárdez a hard time. The San José Earthquakes defender has been capped 64 times with Honduras. He is one of the cornerstones of the back line.
Bernárdez needs to be very focused because the toughest task will be stopping Gio whenever he makes a run.
Javier Hernández vs. Maynor Figueroa
Javier Hernández has been picked on in Honduran media outlets constantly. The last attack came from El Diez, the biggest sports diary in the country.
In a video called El Cazagoles (the goal poacher), the Mexican forward is portrayed as a coward—he hides under a bed and shakes constantly—and begs Sir Alex Ferguson to give him some minutes on the pitch.
But Chicharito wants to focus on playing football and winning the match instead of taking the critics to heart.
Despite his lack of play with Manchester United, Hernández is always a threat when he is on the pitch as he can solve a match in the blink of an eye.
The man that will try to neutralize Chicharito is Maynor Figueroa, the most experienced Honduran on the team.
He has worn the Wigan Athletic jersey since 2008 and is the standard-bearer of the squad.
Figueroa is a hard centre-back that gives confidence to the defense and leads his teammates on and off the pitch.