Mexico isn’t supposed to be trailing anyone in the World Cup Qualifiers group stage. In fact, there isn’t a team in the group that should even be close to keeping pace.
But after a scoreless draw with Costa Rica Tuesday, the Mexican squad now faces an uphill battle just to finish in the top three to secure a spot in the 2014 World Cup. Now tied with their recent foe following the draw, Mexico find themselves two points back of the U.S. team with Honduras (seven points) close behind.
The fact that the U.S. currently leads the group is surprising enough, but that’s a topic for another discussion.
As it stands, Mexico has accrued just eight points through six Hexagonal matches, five of which were draws. Three of those six matches resulted in no goals for the Mexican squad, and if things don’t turn around quickly, it could get much, much worse.
To start, Mexico has played one more match than the rest of the group (save for Jamaica) and now have one fewer opportunity to regain those points. No team would be happy with five one-point efforts in six matches, let alone a team that was the favorite to run away with the group this year.
And perhaps most surprising, Mexico haven’t fared well on their home soil at a venue notorious for an incredibly hostile environment for visiting sides. If Estadio Azteca hasn’t provided the boost the Mexican side needs to seal the deal in the remaining group matches, it’s hard to say what will.
Against Costa Rica, Mexico failed to create much (if any) momentum throughout the contest. With an attack that looked completely lost for much of the match and a defense that did just enough to stave off a few strong Costa Rica scoring chances, the Mexican side just didn’t look like a team ready to make a splash in the World Cup finals.
Mexico was supposed to turn things around. Instead, an unsettled crowd was treated to another disappointing draw—and players were in turn treated to a barrage of trash courtesy of those fans.
While many are calling for manager Jose Manuel de la Torre’s job following the draw, now isn’t the time for Mexico to make a major change at the top of the pyramid. With opportunities running thin and World Cup aspirations slowly bleeding dry, now is the time for the top-rated team in the group to play the football it was expected to play from the onset.
Part of that turnaround will require Javier Hernandez to begin playing like the star he is expected to be. Against Costa Rica, Chicharito missed several opportunities to provide the dagger, including a chance in the final minutes of the match. The margin for error is so slim in World Cup Qualifying matches, and Chicharito can’t afford to continue playing outside those lines.
But making a final push in the group stage isn’t about one coach or one player. For Mexico to dig themselves out of a big hole and make the World Cup finals, it has to be a team effort. Anything less will result in more disappointment and one of the most shocking qualifying campaigns we’re likely to see this year.