Ex-soccer star and analyst on Fox Deportes' new studio show Debate Final Alberto Garcia Aspe chatted with Bleacher Report about Mexico's World Cup rivals and El Tri's shot at qualifying for the round of 16.
Garcia Aspe played three World Cups (1994, 1998 and 2002) and scored 21 goals in 109 appearances with El Tri. He is the ninth-highest capped Mexican.
Bleacher Report: What do you think about Mexico's World Cup group?
Alberto Garcia Aspe: It is tough for sure, but not as much as the ones in which United States or Costa Rica ended up. It's possible to get to the knockout stage; obviously you have the host and favorite team there; however, Brazil usually have a tough time playing against El Tri. Croatia and Cameroon will not be easy rivals, but if Mexico have a good preparation, they can beat them.
B/R: Let's talk about Brazil, why is it so tough for them to face Mexico?
AGA: If Mexico put pressure on them and cut the spaces, Brazil will be uncomfortable and they do not like that. Mexico need to play like they did at the Olympics, for instance.
B/R: We also have Croatia, but they are not one of the strongest European sides, don't you think?
AGA: Mexico have to pay attention to their own game, like it happened in 2002, when we won 1-0. They depend on certain players, which means individual efforts. This is not the team we saw in 1998 that marveled everyone. Mexico must have the ball and avoid aerial game. Croatians are dangerous when it comes to set pieces; El Tri have to keep the ball as much as possible.
B/R: Finally, Cameroon, a team with great physical attributes.
AGA: Absolutely. The African sides are always tough. You can study their games and moves but you will have a hard time deciphering them. Almost in every World Cup only one African team makes it big. I was certain that confederation was going to have more growth than what it has had. They have great figures, like Samuel Eto'o, but when they play together they do not offer much.
B/R: It's not the first time Mexico faces the host in the group stage, but it is always nice to play against them in the second or third game, don't you think?
AGA: It's a great advantage. I'd have loved to see Mexico against Brazil in the last match, when probably both would have been already qualified. Anyway, Mexico have what it takes to put up a good fight and even draw the game. The staff and players must forget about what happened in the past. We must focus on the preparation.
B/R: Let's say Mexico qualify to the knockout stage, they will probably face Spain or the Netherlands, that's a tough scenario.
AGA: Throw in Chile too. They will be great rivals. Let's be honest, in every World Cup once you get to the next level everything gets more complicated, there's no easy game. Let's not get ahead.
.@11carlosV: Scored more clear-cut chances against Celta Vigo (4) than any other player has in a match in Europe's top 5 leagues this season— WhoScored.com (@WhoScored) November 25, 2013
B/R: There are several footballers playing abroad, but not consistently. Should Miguel Herrera bring them just because they are with European clubs, like it has happened before?
AGA: Herrera will travel to Europe to sit and talk with every one of them. They must earn their spot, like you said, not all of them are at their best. However, playing in a World Cup is always an incentive and all of them will want to go.
Perhaps Carlos Vela's case may be different, but if he really wants to come to El Tri, that's fine, he is going through a great moment and all good things should be welcomed. All the players must be committed with El Tri and that will generate a very interesting sports rivalry between those playing abroad and the ones in the local league.
B/R: Will this be the World Cup where we will see a new generation of Mexican footballers?
AGA: I believe so, yes. We have seen younger players that have already played a World Cup and that is very important. I really hope that Herrera can fit them in his system to help Mexico have a great tournament.
B/R: Let's talk about the preparation, what should Mexico do to get to Brazil as strong as possible?
AGA: Yeah, that's the first thing they need to consider. They have already agreed to play with Poland in January, but other than that, the staff will look for rivals that are similar to the ones they'll face in the World Cup; probably a couple of African sides and other of great level.
B/R: Can Mexico get past the round of 16 and finally play a fifth match?
Will Mexico qualify for the knockout stage?
AGA: I believe that they have to focus on getting as far as possible and not just in the fifth game. Everybody talks about that match; in the three World Cups I played we had a good chance to make it happen. In United States 1994 Bulgaria beat us and they finished between the best four teams of the tournament. The same happened with Germany in France 1998 and with the United States in Korea-Japan 2002.
The players need to believe they can reach the final stage; it has to do with the mindset. We must consider that the match they play in the round of 16 will be the key of the tournament because any side Mexico face will be first class.