It hasn't been easy, but Mexico are just two matches away from qualifying for the 2014 World Cup.
With the United States' dramatic win over Panama on Tuesday night, El Tri were able to finish fourth in qualification, despite a 2-1 loss to Costa Rica. That ensured Mexico would be facing off against New Zealand in a two-legged playoff, with the winner getting a spot in Brazil.
This is a far cry from where Mexico were following that 2-1 loss to Honduras in the Estadio Azteca. They were a mess on the pitch, and the supporters were revolting off the pitch. That defeat ultimately cost Jose Manuel de la Torre his job, and Victor Manuel Vucetich was left to pick up the pieces. He had little to no time to fix what was wrong with the team and also had to guide El Tri though to qualification.
Vucetich can't begin planning for the World Cup because if they lose that playoff, he's probably going to be out of a job, and the next World Cup cycle is still over a year away. Instead, he must continue with a lot of the players that have gotten Mexico into the position they're in.
The manager is between a rock and a hard place. However, should he secure qualification, he'll have much more freedom with his squad.
The job is not done yet, but you'd favor Mexico against New Zealand. The All Whites can defend well, but it will be much tougher for them to score in the Azteca than it will be for Mexico to score on the road.
With a yellow card in the 57th minute of the 2-1 loss against Costa Rica, Javier Hernandez got himself suspended for the first leg of the two-legged playoff against New Zealand.
In terms of talent alone, Hernandez is arguably the best player on the Mexico national team. On form, though, he hasn't done anywhere near enough to continue warranting a place in the squad. He's not getting regular first-team football with Manchester United, so he doesn't have full match fitness. As a result, when he has been selected for El Tri, he's been ineffective.
The goals aren't coming, and for a player who's reputation has been built on scoring goals in bunches, that's a major problem.
Oribe Peralta and Raul Jimenez, on the other hand, have been very good whenever they get a chance in the lineup. Peralta scored the lone goal against Costa Rica and then the opener against Panama last weekend. Jimenez got that incredible winner in the Estadio Azteca that kept Mexico's World Cup hopes alive.
If Victor Manuel Vucetich is judging his squad selection on form alone, Peralta and Jimenez would be much better options than Hernandez.
However, benching such a high-profile player can sometimes have consequences in the dressing room.
That's why Vucetich might be helped by having the decision taken out of his hands. He doesn't have any choice but to rely on Peralta and Jimenez and leave Hernandez out of the squad against New Zealand.
With Mexico still alive to qualify for the World Cup, it's easy to forget they lost, 2-1, to Costa Rica. According to ESPN FC, El Tri had one less shot and four fewer shots on target despite possessing the ball for 63 percent of the match.
Going into the match, Victor Manuel Vucetich had acknowledged his players were getting a bit ahead of themselves mentally, via Goal's Tom Marshall:
“In our game, sometimes we exaggerate, we become arrogant,” stated Vucetich in Monday’s press conference. “I think this is the moment that we should reflect and show, above all, on the pitch that we need to win.”
Vucetich’s assessment comes off the back of Costa Rica forward Joel Campbell slamming Mexico for “thinking they are Spain” on Sunday and saying El Tri will have to suffer in Central America on Tuesday if it is to make the World Cup.
Having watched that performance against Costa Rica, the coach might be rethinking some of his squad selections. It was the same kind of performance the fans had come to expect from Jose Manuel de la Torre's Mexico. El Tri were ineffective on the ball and played too timidly.
You can't blame Vucetich too much. With so much on the line, he couldn't afford to take too many risks with his squad selection. It was not the time for experimentation, but rather to just grind out results. That's exactly what Mexico were able to do.
Now, possibly with so much time before the World Cup, Vucetich may choose to tinker with the formations more, both to see if new players will emerge and to challenge the established stars. It will be important to forge some competitiveness in the team, or Mexico will be looking at a group-stage exit in Brazil, if they even get that far.
Don't expect Victor Manuel Vucetich to reinvent the wheel against New Zealand. He's not going to make too many changes from the side that took on Costa Rica. As was said before, this isn't the time to tweak with the squad and see what works.
Vucetich must select 11 players he feels confident will deliver the results necessary against New Zealand.
This is a look at what the lineup could be in the two legs against the All Whites, followed by players who may be playing a role in El Tri in the buildup to and at the World Cup.
Projected Starting Lineup
GK: Jose de Jesus Corona
LB: Jorge Torres Nilo
CB: Rafael Marquez
CB: Hugo Ayala
RB: Miguel Layun
LM: Christian Gimenez
CM: Carlos Pena
CM: Jesus Zavala
RM: Giovani dos Santos
ST: Oribe Peralta
ST: Raul Jimenez
Other Likely Squad Members
GK: Guillermo Ochoa, Alfredo Talavera
DF: Carlos Salcido, Severo Meza, Francisco Rodriguez, Hector Moreno, Hiram Mier,
MF: Gerardo Torrado, Fernando Arce, Marco Fabian, Javier Aquino, Angel Reyna, Andres Guardado
FW: Aldo de Nigris, Javier Hernandez
More Possible Squad Members
GK: Moises Munoz, Jonathan Orozco
DF: Paul Aguilar, Diego Reyes, Joel Huiqui, Jonny Magallon, Juan Carlos Valenzuela
MF: Pablo Barrera, Hector Herrera, Luis Montes, Adrian Aldrete
FW: Carlos Vela, Omar Bravo, Rafael Marquez, Javier Orozco