Raul Orvañanos of FOX Deportes is part of the panel of talent on the channel's leading soccer program, La Ultima Palabra, as well as host of FOX Gol Mexico.
He shared his thoughts with Bleacher Report about the complex situation that Mexico has to face in the last couple of games of World Cup qualification.
Bleacher Report: How did Mexico get to this crucial scenario?
Raul Orvañanos: Honestly, everything got more complicated than what we expected. I thought that by now Mexico were going to be already qualified. Now we have to play the toughest games in years, beginning with Panama. Mexico must step up. It is true that Panama has come a long way but football-wise Mexico has more to offer. We have better players.
B/R: It is even tougher because the team has yet to win at the Estadio Azteca? Will this be a factor?
RO: That’s a good point. The Azteca has two profiles: Either it pushes the rival constantly or, like it has happened in this qualifying process, the fans run out of patience when the squad doesn't score, hence they pressure the players. It is very important that they score quickly. The people in the stands will be more patient because they know that a win against Panama is crucial. They must win the game.
B/R: Is Victor Manuel Vucetich the right coach?
RO: Of course, right now he is. I don’t know if Vucetich believes in destiny, but it seems like it was destined to be. Let’s not forget that he was offered the job over Jose Manuel de la Torre. The reason he declined had to do with his relocation to Mexico City. His sentimental partner and his children were not comfortable with that. And now, after several years, it happened.
B/R: What do you think about the squad for the next couple of games?
RO: Let’s talk about Rafael Marquez. When he left New York, he was very clear in saying he wanted to play in the World Cup. He has been training hard, and now that he has been considered by the manager he said that he is just another player on the team. However, he cannot be just one more. Rafa has to be the leader; he has to motivate his teammates and be a wind of change.
B/R: In contrast to other coaches, Vucetich did not cap some of the footballers that play abroad. What do you think?
RO: I think it’s the right call. Andres Guardado is not going through a good moment. I even dare to say that Javier Hernandez will not start. He has not played much, and he has not had as much activity as he used to. My guess is that Vucetich will go with Oribe Peralta or Raul Jimenez, who is doing great in the Liga MX.
B/R: Speaking of Chicharito, he has proved to be a great sub…
RO: Totally. He is the best sub there is. His numbers with Manchester United say it all. He is very disciplined. If Vucetich tells him that he will not start, Hernandez won't take it the wrong way.
B/R: Carlos Vela: case closed, or must the national team try to bring him?
RO: I think it's case closed. He doesn’t want to come, that’s the reality. People say he was mad at Jose Manuel de la Torre, but that’s not true. I’m not sure what is going on with him or what prevents him from coming. What I do know with all certainty is that he does not have a good relationship with the Mexican press. He probably thinks that the fans will think of him as some sort of savior.
B/R: Let’s talk about Guillermo Ochoa. He didn’t come last time, but now that he is back, is he going to be the starter?
RO: I think so, because he is doing great. Corona is a fantastic goalkeeper, but he failed at the Azteca, at Columbus and recently in the Liga MX. If you have a keeper who is going through a time of uncertainty, you shouldn't use him. Ochoa is coming off from a superb game, even though his team didn’t win. Emotionally speaking, he is in better shape than Corona.
B/R: What do Mexico need to do to win at the Estadio Azteca?
RO: The concentration is fundamental. The team must be concentrated. With all due respect, we are better than Panama. The games that El Tri haven't won, against Honduras for instance, have been the result of lack of concentration and individual mistakes from Jose de Jesus Corona, Diego Reyes, you name it. That is what the team must work on. I have heard a lot of fans that say "we will win 4-0." I think, for starters, we must score first, before them. They have to take it one step at a time.
B/R: And Costa Rica?
RO: It will be more complicated, because it’s an away game and because they are better than Panama. But the result at the Azteca is key, and we will see after that.
B/R: How should Mexico line up against Panama?
RO: Guillermo Ochoa; Miguel Layun (RB), Rafael Marquez (CB), Hugo Ayala (CB), Jorge Torres Nilo (LB); Jesus Zavala (CM), Gerardo Torrado or Carlos Salcido (CM), Christian Gimenez (LAM), Lucas Lobos (CAM), Giovani dos Santos (RAM); Raul Jimenez (ST). I’d love to see Gimenez with Zavala, but I don’t think that is going to happen. As for Jimenez, I think he should start because he is going through a great moment and knows the Estadio Azteca by heart.
B/R: Your prediction for Mexico vs. Panama?
RO: Mexico 3-1.