Daniel "El Ruso" Brailovsky of FOX Deportes is part of the panel of talent on the leading soccer program, La Ultima Palabra, and host of FOX Sports Radio.
As a player, he represented three national teams (Uruguay, Argentina and Israel) and won four league titles, one with Uruguayan club Penarol and three with Club America of the Liga MX.
He also managed the Israeli teams Maccabi Kfar Kana, Maccabi Herzliya and Maccabi Haifa. In Mexico, Brailovsky coached America and Necaxa.
El Ruso shared his thoughts ahead of the Mexico vs. Panama World Cup qualifying match—a game that can tip the scale for either team as they both seek a ticket to the playoff game against New Zealand.
Karla Villegas Gama: We are days away from a key match against Panama. What are your impressions?
Daniel Brailovsky: It is complicated. For me, it is the most important game that El Tri has had in many years. Panama is a squad that has proved to know what they are doing on the pitch. Julio Dely Valdes has worked great with the squad; they know what they have to do. Before they played the 2013 Gold Cup, the Panamanian Federation did not call up the footballers who play abroad, in return, they had 10 days to work with those of the local league. This is what us in FOX Deportes call a kill or die game. If they don’t win this match, they might not qualify to the playoff. The fans will support Mexico and the players need to know that this is the last chance they have to get to the 2014 World Cup.
KVG: When Jose Manuel de la Torre was in charge, it seemed like there were issues in the locker room, don’t you think?
DB: It seemed like it. But having been on a pitch, I can tell you that no one will ever recognize that. I don’t know if they were not playing good just because they didn't want to, or because they didn't like the coach, or because they picked sides. The thing is that today, all of them, they have to think as one. The individual level shouldn't matter, and there is no room for egos. They are playing to defend a jersey. This team has been in most of the World Cups, and they need to leave the personal stuff behind. Mexico is better than Panama, individually and as a group. They have to prove it on the pitch, and they must understand that they have 90 minutes to make it happen. They have to avoid despair. Let's not forget that Mexico hasn't won on home soil and that may be a factor, emotionally speaking. Panama will take advantage of El Tri's jitters and their current situation. Mexico have to play against to their attitude, their desire to win and against a team that knows that a draw is a good result.
KVG: Mexico have a new manager, what can we expect?
DB: Of course it will be key. We will see some changes in tactics and strategy. A new presence is always good.
KVG: What is the key issue for Victor Manuel Vucetich?
He has to work with the players’ mindset; I don’t think it has to do with football issue. He has to approach them individually and then as a group. He has to have the ability to pick the better-prepared players to face this game. On the pitch, he has to be more flexible. We saw in the last couple of games that Mexico was predictable, hence, it was hard to create goal opportunities. When a team doesn't have that, everything gets more complex. If you have opportunities but miss them, the problem is not as big because you just lack the final touch. Mexico have to be more aggressive, they have to push Panama when they have the ball, they need to attack and play a good defense. Those that are not helping the offense must cover the rival tightly to avoid a counterattack.
KVG: As expected, Vucetich capped several youngsters, but he surprised with a handful of veteran players. What can they bring to the pitch?
DB: The return of Rafael Marquez is important because he has hierarchy, capacity, talent and leadership. I hope that Salcido goes back to his old shape, which he lacked in the last couple of games. Now, about Javier Hernandez, every time he has to make the difference he fulfills the expectations, here or with Manchester United. Fernando Arce is a very experienced footballer that has had a huge assimilation capacity, because he is part of the group that went to Tijuana and won the championship. It’s important to take advantage of Javier Aquino and Giovani dos Santos’ momentum. Finally, all of them must commit to the same cause. In football, there’s always pressure, and the player that cannot handle it should not be on the pitch, let alone in a national team or in a game like this one.
KVG: Do you think Vucetich is the coach that Mexico needs in a time like this?
DB: Absolutely, he is one of the most successful managers in Mexican football. He has earned this opportunity through hard work. If it hadn’t been him, I would have resorted to Manuel Lapuente or Ricardo La Volpe, who also have a lot of experience. I think Vucetich is a great manager; he is experienced, dedicated, patient and a winner.
KVG: How should Mexico line up against Panama?
DB: I think Guillermo Ochoa in the goal; Miguel Layun (RB), Rafael Marquez with Hiram Mier or Hugo Ayala (CB) and Jorge Torres Nilo (LB); Carlos Salcido (CM), Jesus Zavala (CM) and Fernando Arce (RM), Christian Gimenez (LM) and Lucas Lobos (CAM), finally, Javier Hernandez (ST).