How Mexico Will Line Up Against Nigeria
It's been four months since we saw the European-based players wearing El Tri's jersey. The scenario will change on Wednesday, March 5, as Mexico face Nigeria in their second preparation match.
Miguel Herrera capped seven players from overseas, six from Club America, four from Leon, two from Toluca and one from each of the following squads: Cruz Azul, Atlas, Santos Laguna and Tigres.
For "El Piojo" this is a key match. Nigeria are the only African squad that Mexico will confront before the World Cup and it's his sole chance to try those playing in Europe.
Let's see how Herrera plans to fit them all in his traditional 5-3-2 system.
Guillermo Ochoa needs to bring his A-game. Like his other fellow countrymen playing abroad, he has one shot at impressing Herrera.
Ochoa has had a stellar performance with French club Ajaccio; not for nothing was he awarded Player of the Year in both seasons he has completed with the Bears.
His reflexes and dives set him as one of the best Mexican goalkeepers of our time and the only one who has played in any of Europe's first divisions.
Ochoa knows how to handle himself in key games and in prestigious tournaments.
Three centre-backs in front of Ochoa:
There is no better Mexican defender abroad than Hector Moreno. The Espanyol footballer has technique, fine touch and leadership.
He has already played in a World Cup and a Confederations Cup, which sets him as an experienced player. He has played with the other centre-backs before so he knows how to work with them.
Since Rafael Marquez arrived in Leon, he went back to his old self. He had a shaky period with New York Red Bulls but managed to turn things around.
Marquez touches the ball like few defenders. He can put a 30-yard pass at his team-mates’ boots with ease; and is no stranger to attacking in set pieces.
He will be the captain in this match, the preparation process and the World Cup. Marquez is the only player who has secured a ticket to Brazil, according to coach Herrera.
Diego Reyes has not had much continuity with Porto but he is young and is poised to grab a place in the team.
He knows he will not take Marquez or Moreno out of the equation, so his battle is against Francisco Rodriguez and Juan Carlos Valenzuela.
During the 2012 Summer Olympics he proved his technique and endurance, which he must show again in front of Nigeria.
Two flying full-backs:
Paul Aguilar has not been at his best with Club America during the 2014 Clausura tournament but he has Herrera’s trust.
Aguilar needs to pay attention because other players, like Rogelio Chavez, have caught Herrera’s eye, as he said last February to local media.
The right-back has faltered to go back to his position in counter-attacks, risking his side’s box.
After an injury and an up-and-down performance with Valencia, Andres Guardado left Spain to join Bayer Leverkusen on a loan.
However, Guardado is the footballer from overseas who needs to prove the most and it seems unlikely that he can displace Miguel Layun on the left flank.
His experience may be vast but he has not been a game-changer for a while, both at club level and with the national team.
Hector Herrera, the Most Valuable Player of the 2012 Toulon Tournament, has adjusted just fine to Porto.
His intelligence and strength set him as a very dependable midfielder who can distribute the ball and unbalance the rival's defense with his speed and vision through the right sideline.
Herrera can also play as a central midfielder but his dribbling skills and creativity can give Mexico depth.
Juan Carlos Medina will be the central midfielder. The Club America footballer has been in this position since Miguel Herrera took over El Tri.
He is a very technical player, especially when he needs to support the defense. His ball control and touch make him accurate with passes.
Medina is a great link for both the back line and the attacking zone.
Guardado may have been the obvious choice to take over the left flank, but with Layun's injury Herrera decided to put him in the defense and go with Luis Montes as an attacking midfielder.
Montes had a stellar 2013 with Club Leon; he won the Apertura tournament and secured a spot with El Tri.
His long-distance shot and his ball possession are superb. He knows how to work in tight spaces and under pressure.
The Manchester United striker may be a bench-warmer with his club but he will definitively start the game against Nigeria.
Javier Hernandez has proven that his playing time with the Red Devils is not necessarily related to his performance with El Tri.
Since Chicharito is not the one who crafts plays but he who finishes them, as long as he stays on the box, takes advantage of his speed and superb aerial game he will always be a factor.
In the meantime, Herrera has a more complete striker to accompany Hernandez; yes, you guessed right, he is Oribe Peralta.
"El Cepillo" fights every ball and gets into the box very quickly. As soon as he sees and opportunity he takes it, no matter where he is standing on the pitch.
Goalkeepers: Jesus Corona (Cruz Azul), Moises Munoz (America) and Guillermo Ochoa (Ajaccio).
Defenders: Paul Aguilar (America), Hector Moreno (Espanyol), Enrique Perez (Atlas), Juan Carlos Valenzuela (America), Rafael Marquez (Leon), Francisco Rodriguez (America), Miguel Ponce (Toluca) and Diego Reyes (Porto).
Midfielders: Jose Vazquez (Leon), Juan Carlos Medina (America), Isaac Brizuela (Toluca), Luis Montes (Leon), Carlos Pena (Leon), Hector Herrera (Porto), Javier Aquino (Villarreal) and Andres Guardado (Bayer Leverkusen).
Forwards: Javier Hernandez (Manchester United), Raul Jimenez (America), Alan Pulido (Tigres) and Oribe Peralta (Santos Laguna).