Assessing the Importance of Andres Guardado to the Mexico National Side

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Assessing the Importance of Andres Guardado to the Mexico National Side
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Andres Guardado has spent seven years in Europe and has become an icon with El Tri. His performance down the left side puts him in the spotlight on a regular basis. 

Guardado started his career with Atlas, a Mexican club based in Guadalajara, Jalisco. He debuted in the 2005 Apertura tournament and quickly became an undisputed starter. 

He made his international debut with El Tri just four months after his first appearance in the Liga MX.

He quickly set himself as the most trusted man on the left flank, due to his endurance, speed and accuracy.

Ultimately he left for Spain in 2007 and joined Deportivo La Coruña, becoming the most expensive Mexican to arrive in La Liga.

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Five seasons later, including one in the second division, Guardado signed with Valencia. Although his first year there was productive, with 44 appearances, one goal and six assists, the next one was a mess.

"El Principito" lost some of his speed and surprise factor. In October he was sidelined due to an injury; he was eventually loaned out to Bayer Leverkusen during the latest winter transfer window. 

His performances with El Tri were not spectacular either. In 2013, Guardado was capped 12 times but only played 11; the last time he missed a match was in 2010 in a friendly against France. He also failed to score in 2013 for the first time since 2007. 

His last appearance with Mexico in 2013 came in the 2-0 defeat to the United States. That same year, under Victor Manuel Vucetich's command, he was not called up. The same thing happened in the World Cup qualification playoff against New Zealand, when Miguel Herrera took over the team.

However, Herrera visited him in Spain early this year to talk about his plans and commitment with El Tri; ultimately he capped Guardado for the only FIFA friendly before the World Cup.

So why is he important to the team despite his inconsistency in recent months?

Guardado has a lot of experience in international competitions. He successfully defended the green jersey during the 2007 and 2011 Gold Cup, as well as in the 2010 World Cup.

His arrival to Valencia saw him move from the midfield to the defense. He has adjusted just fine to the new position, which will be very valuable during the World Cup.

Ever since Herrera took the job, Miguel Layun had been the undisputed starter on the left side of defense, but he missed the clash against Nigeria due to an injury and so Guardado got a chance to show his talent.

Although he didn't bring much in the first half, he turned things around in the last 45 minutes. Not only did he cover better, he also opened up spaces and created plays.

He is in great shape and that will be key in Brazil. Mexico will face Croatia, Cameroon and the host; the latter two are not only strong but also very fast and used to high temperatures.

The good news for the Bayer Leverkusen footballer is that Layun can also play on the right flank, as he did in last year's Gold Cup, leaving the left-side position available for Guardado, as there are not any other clear contenders for it.

Putting Layun on the right is a viable option since Paul Aguilar has not been up to his best. Herrera has been trying other players, like Rodolfo Pizarro, who had a 75 percent successful pass rate against South Korea, compared to Aguilar's 72 percent against Nigeria.

So Guardado has fitness and experience, and don't forget his decision-making and dribbling skills. Despite his lack of playing time, he can still unbalance any defense with a run to the goal or a long-distance shot. 

All in all, he is a very complete footballer who can turn things around easily, fits in Herrera's 5-3-2 system and provides depth and creativity to El Tri.

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