Mexico scored twice against Nigeria on Friday—a modest achievement, but one that should have them in good spirits ahead of Tuesday’s crucial World Cup qualifier against Jamaica.
Goals have been hard to come by for El Tri of late. Through three rounds of CONCACAF’s tricky Hexagonal tournament they have managed only two, and both came in a 2-2 draw against Honduras. They played to scoreless draws against each of Jamaica and the United States—both at the Azteca—and also drew Peru 0-0 in San Francisco in April.
In six matches this calendar year, Mexico have managed only five goals, four of which have come from Javier Hernandez. But while the Manchester United hitman has been in excellent form for his country, the same cannot be said for fellow striker Aldo de Nigris and attackers Giovani dos Santos, Andres Guardado and Pablo Barrera.
Manager Jose Manuel de la Torre has attempted to address his problems in front of goal by calling Club America forward Raul Jiminez into his 23-man squad, and on Friday the 22-year-old replaced Hernandez with 17 minutes to play.
But given the persistent lack of offense, Carlos Vela’s continued absence is something of a surprise, especially as the 24-year-old scored 14 goals and assisted nine others as his Real Sociedad side qualified for the Champions League.
Vela has been kept to the margins of the Mexico setup since he was caught partying after a September 2010 friendly against Colombia, but he scored only four fewer goals than Hernandez this past season and would surely have provided the national team with a much-needed shot in the arm.
His absence is just one of the big questions facing de la Torre ahead of Tuesday’s match and the Confederations Cup later in the month. Another involves the goalkeepers—Guillermo Ochoa and Jose de Jesus Corona. Ochoa played well in recent qualifiers, but it was Corona—widely regarded as the best ‘keeper playing his club football in Mexico—who got the nod against Nigeria.
These matters and more will be playing in de la Torre’s mind over the next few days, weeks and months as he looks to get Mexico into a sixth successive World Cup finals. And over the next few slides we’ll examine his squad more closely, outline some possible Confederations Cup scenarios and provide a prediction for their performance at the competition.