Mexico vs Honduras: Picking Up 3 Points Vital for El Tri in Crucial Qualifier

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistSeptember 6, 2013

Aug 14, 2013; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; Mexico head coach Jose Manuel de la Torre looks on before the first half against Ivory Coast at Metlife Stadium. Mexico won the match 4-1. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports
Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

If Mexico want to climb their way up the 2014 World Cup qualification table, they need to pick up all three points in the Azteca against Honduras.

When these teams met back in March, Honduras snatched a draw with two late goals in a three-minute span. El Tri really let one get away, but it's not a terrible result in San Pedro Sula.

Getting a win here would be a huge boost for Mexico's chances of automatically qualifying for the World Cup. They'd increase their gap over Honduras to four points and would have a two-point lead on Panama, should they beat Jamaica.

Nobody really thinks Mexico will miss out on the World Cup, but it's important to avoid that two-leg playoff against New Zealand. The Kiwis are a very organized squad and would be able to hold out in Mexico City, while snatching a win in their home leg.

Finishing in the top three allows El Tri to avoid that possibility.

Beating Honduras also has a knock-on effect for a multitude of variables.

The Estadio Azteca was once considered one of the best cauldrons in international football. Opposing teams would have to deal with the altitude, sweltering heat and supporters who weren't afraid to launch bags of urine at their hated rivals.

However, that hasn't been the case at all recently, as Mexico have picked up three 0-0 draws at the Azteca in the "Hex." Beating Honduras would help to build back up that aura of invincibility surrounding the stadium.

What makes this match even more important for El Tri is their trip to Columbus, Ohio, coming up on September 10. There won't be any inclement weather factors, but Crew Stadium has become a very tough place for El Tri. It's going to be a major home-field advantage for the United States. Plus, the Columbus crowd will be extra pumped up after the whole American Outlaws furor.

Mexico will be lucky to get a point against the States on Tuesday.

By drawing or losing either or both of their next two matches, El Tri wouldn't have helped their qualifying place all that much. In the best-case scenario, they're still firmly in third place and looking up at the US in first. The door would still be open for Panama or Honduras to supplant Mexico for that third spot.

There's also the idea of building some momentum going into the World Cup. The Mexican Football Federation has firmly hitched their wagons to Jose Manuel de la Torre. If the FMF hasn't sacked him by now, then there's no chance it will any time before next summer.

In order for De la Torre to get the support of supporters and players alike, he has to get Mexico through these kinds of tough stretches. He has to show the tactical acumen to break down a side like Honduras, who parks the bus and plays defensively. So far De la Torre has looked more out of his depth than he has looked like a manager capable of making a deep World Cup run.

There's still enough time for Mexico to set things straight and look more like the team at the 2010 World Cup and 2012 Olympics. It can start against Honduras on Friday night.