Predicting the Mexico Squad 60 Days from the 2014 World Cup

Karla Villegas Gama@karlitsvFeatured ColumnistApril 12, 2014

Predicting the Mexico Squad 60 Days from the 2014 World Cup

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    Dave Tulis

    We are 60 days from the World Cup, and Miguel Herrera may very well have figured out the structure of the team he will take to Brazil in hopes to secure the trophy.

    Herrera came to El Tri as an emergency move from the Mexican Football Federation after the team had hit rock bottom at the Hexagonal.

    The then-Club America coach was appointed to lead the squad in the two-legged playoff against New Zealand, which Mexico ultimately won.

    The offer to take over the team permanently came soon after, and "El Piojo" grabbed it almost immediately.

    The base of the team that secured the ticket to Brazil, via the playoff, is pretty much the same to date. Herrera has had to incorporate several footballers who have proven to be in their prime and also those who play in Europe.

    His made the right decision when he brought players from his former club. To accomplish the feat, he turned to those he trusted and knew the most on and off the pitch; hence, there is no question he will continue to do the same thing for the World Cup.

    Let's take a look to what the final 23-man list will probably look like.

Jesus Corona (Starter)

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    Christian Palma

    Age: 33 years old

    Position: Goalkeeper

    Club: Cruz Azul

    Appearances with El Tri: 32

     

    Corona has proven to be a safe goalkeeper in big events such as the 2012 Summer Olympics. 

    He is the kind of player who can come out playing with his feet, which is something Miguel Herrera has always appreciated in a keeper.

    Corona has improved his aerial game considerably, which is a fantastic addition to his already impressive reflexes and dives.

    If there is something in which he still needs to keep an eye on, it is his temper. Back in 2010 he didn't make the World Cup team because he was involved (link in Spanish) in a bar fight in Guadalajara. He was also dropped from the 2011 Gold Cup team due to another altercation.

    The Cruz Azul footballer has been playing professionally for 12 years now.

Guillermo Ochoa (Sub)

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    Bruno Magalhaes

    Age: 28 years old

    Position: Goalkeeper

    Club: Ajaccio

    Appearances with El Tri: 56

     

    Ochoa is the only Mexican goalkeeper who has played in the first division of a European league. He has been a stalwart for Ajaccio since he arrived in France in 2011.

    He has been recognized as Player of the Year by his club in two successive seasons and has been key in keeping the Bears in League 1.

    However, Ochoa is not the kind of keeper who uses his feet regularly. He tends to clear the ball or toss it to the defenders, although his aerial game and reflexes are superb.

    This will be his third World Cup—he stayed on the bench in Germany 2006 and South Africa 2010—and the competition with Corona will be fierce. If he is willing to sit at least one or two games he will make the team.

Alfredo Talavera (Sub)

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    Eduardo Verdugo

    Age: 31 years old

    Position: Goalkeeper

    Club: Toluca

    Appearances with El Tri: 13

     

    Talavera has been going through a better moment than Moises Munoz. Along with Corona, he is the best goalkeeper of the 2014 Clausura, with only 11 goals allowed in 14 matchdays.

    Of all the four goalkeepers set to take a spot on the team, Talavera is definitively the best when it comes to aerial game.

    He knows how to tackle the ball in set pieces, which could come in handy against Croatia, as well as how to lead the defense in tricky situations.

    Talavera has only played 13 times with Mexico, but he had a fantastic performance at the 2011 Gold Cup.

Paul Aguilar (Starter)

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    Ross Setford

    Age: 28 years old

    Position: Right-back

    Club: Club America

    Appearances with El Tri: 23

     

    Aguilar is one of Herrera's most trusted men. He has been in charge of the right flank since December 2013.

    The manager has capped players like Rogelio Chavez and Enrique Perez in order to try them in this position, but it seems pointless.

    The America defender will be the starter unless Herrera decides to put Miguel Layun on the right and Andres Guardado on the left.

    Aguilar has speed and ball control, which allows him to attack and help the forwards with long passes and crosses. He is physically fit and will not let Herrera down.

Hector Moreno (Starter)

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    Jay LaPrete

    Age: 26 years old

    Position: Centre-back

    Club: Espanyol

    Appearances with El Tri: 50

     

    Moreno has been very consistent throughout his career. He came out of his shell with the U-17 squad that won the 2005 World Cup.

    Two years later he left Mexico and arrived in the Netherlands, where he set himself as a very technical and intelligent centre-back.

    His height (6'1") is ideal to reject the ball with his head and also to join the attack in corner kicks.

    In Brazil he will play on the left side of the box next to Rafael Marquez and Miguel Layun.

Rafael Marquez (Starter)

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    Rick Scuteri

    Age: 35 years old

    Position: Centre-back

    Club: Leon

    Appearances with El Tri: 118

     

    Marquez will not only lead the defense, but he will carry the team on his shoulders; hence, he has earned the right to wear the captain armband.

    His successful club career has given him the opportunity to play under the most stressful conditions, which he has transformed into experience.

    Despite being the oldest footballer on the team, Marquez still has fantastic ball touch, possession and vision to put long passes in his teammates' feet easily.

    He is key in set pieces thanks to his mobility inside the box as well as his powerful header.

Diego Reyes (Starter)

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    Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

    Age: 21 years old

    Position: Centre-back

    Club: Porto

    Appearances with El Tri: 12

     

    Reyes is one of the most promising Mexican defenders right now. He started his career with Club America, and after the 2012 Summer Olympics he signed with Porto.

    It was a tough change for Reyes because he was almost immediately relegated to the B team.

    However, coach Paulo Fonseca was sacked in March, and with Luis Castro’s arrival Reyes has had more minutes with the senior squad.

    This kid may be wet behind the ears, but he is strong and fierce. Right now he only needs to keep getting playing time to get back on track.

    He has Herrera’s trust, as he played for him in 2013 when "Las Aguilas" captured their 11th league title.

Miguel Layun (Starter)

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    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    Age: 25 years old

    Position: Left-back/right-back

    Club: Club America

    Appearances with El Tri: 11

     

    Once hated by Club America fans, Miguel Layun has become a key player for Mexico since 2013. His first shot came at that year's Gold Cup, where he played as a right-back.

    Then he was capped by Victor Manuel Vucetich to play in the Hexagonal, and finally Miguel Herrera made him an undisputed starter.

    Layun is very fast and unbalancing. His fine touch and long-distance shots make him a very valuable and lethal weapon for El Tri.

    His flexibility allows him to play on both flanks, which could save Herrera one spot on the team.

Javier Rodriguez (Sub)

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    Hannah Peters/Getty Images

    Age: 32 years old

    Position: Centre-back

    Club: Club America

    Appearances with El Tri: 91

     

    Rodriguez will make the team for two reasons: He has Herrera's trust, and he is a very experienced player.

    Other than that, "El Maza" has not much to offer. He has become a slow player who cannot keep up with younger and faster players, as seen against Nigeria.

    His height (6'3'') is his most valuable asset, which will give him a long shot to play against Croatia.

    Rodriguez could substitute Diego Reyes and no one else, as Marquez and Moreno are immovable.

Miguel Ponce (Sub)

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    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    Age: 25 years old

    Position: Left-back

    Club: Toluca

    Appearances with El Tri: six

     

    Although he has improved considerably since he left Chivas de Guadalajara for Toluca, Ponce will not play at all.

    His two big tournaments with Mexico are the 2012 Summer Olympics and the 2013 Gold Cup.

    Plus, he will have to fight for the starting position with Miguel Layun or Andres Guardado, which makes his World Cup debut almost impossible.

Juan Carlos Valenzuela (Sub)

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    Getty Images/Getty Images

    Age: 29 years old

    Position: Centre-back

    Club: Club America

    Appearances with El Tri: 19

     

    If you compare him with Moreno, Reyes, Marquez and even Rodriguez, "El Topo" is far behind them.

    He won the 2009 Gold Cup and failed to make the 2010 World Cup team. After three years he finally came back thanks to Herrera.

    However, Valenzuela is not physically fit, and he has cracked in key games, showing his weakness mentally.

Carlos Pena (Starter)

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    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    Age: 24 years old

    Position: Right midfielder

    Club: Leon

    Appearances with El Tri: 14

     

    Pena has it all. He can play as a defensive midfielder or through any flank of the pitch with the same success.

    With Herrera he has been placed mainly on the left but will be switched to the right if Guardado takes that position.

    Pena has been playing the Liga MX, Copa Libertadores and international friendlies with El Tri at the same level.

    He is one of the Mexicans who could leave the country as soon as the World Cup ends. He is fast, strong, unbalancing and knows how to finish plays.

Hector Herrera (Starter)

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    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    Age: 23 years old

    Position: Defensive midfielder/right midfielder

    Club: Porto

    Appearances with El Tri: 10

     

    Like Reyes, Herrera left for Porto in 2013. He had a slump when he transitioned from the Olympic squad to the senior team, but against Nigeria he showed he is back.

    Herrera is the kind of midfielder who can link the defense and the attack smoothly. Plus, he is a great playmaker thanks to his vision on the pitch and ball touch, which give him accuracy.

    You can see him also through the right flank, but he is far more productive in the center of the pitch. Juan Carlos Medina has been in charge of this position, but Herrera had a better performance against Nigeria.

Andres Guardado (Starter)

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    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    Age: 27 years old

    Position: Left midfielder/left-back

    Club: Bayer Leverkusen 

    Appearances with El Tri: 100

     

    Guardado went through a rough patch with Valencia due to a couple of injuries. He left Spain on a loan in January 2014 and joined Bayer Leverkusen.

    He changed positions when he played for Los Che. Initially a left midfielder, he was moved to the defense and adjusted to his new role with ease.

    He has a lot to offer to the team, mainly due to his experience in Europe and big tournaments with El Tri, as he has already played in two World Cups.

    Herrera could use him as a left-back, moving Layun to the right flank. This decision could give him the chance to bring Luis Montes or Carlos Pena from the start.

Juan Carlos Medina (Sub)

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    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    Age: 30 years old

    Position: Defensive midfielder

    Club: Club America

    Appearances with El Tri: seven

     

    Medina had to wait nine years to reappear with Mexico. He debuted in 2004 under Hugo Sanchez's command, but after that he faded away quickly.

    Miguel Herrera brought him back and since the two-legged playoff against New Zealand "El Negro" has been the defensive midfielder of the team.

    He faltered against Nigeria constantly, and Hector Herrera came to the rescue. The 5-3-2 system puts a lot of pressure in the center of the pitch, and Medina has not much experience in the international arena.

    It is risky enough to play a tournament like this with one defensive midfielder, but doing so with one who lacks experience could be a death sentence, especially with rivals like Brazil, Cameroon and Croatia.

Luis Montes (Sub)

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    Rick Scuteri

    Age: 27 years old

    Position: Left midfielder

    Club: Leon

    Appearances with El Tri: 11

     

    Montes is fast, accurate and fierce. Like Pena, he can work in any of the flanks, although he usually plays from the right with El Tri.

    Unfortunately for Montes the arrival of the European-based players will relegate him to the bench, as there are only the places in the midfield, which will probably be taken by Guardado, Herrera and Pena.

    However, against the United States Montes came in as a sub and proved his value with runs through the goal line and accurate crosses. Plus, he gave the team a different pace.

Marco Fabian (Sub)

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    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    Age: 24 years old

    Position: Left midfielder

    Club: Cruz Azul

    Appearances with El Tri: 14

     

    After a bunch of scandals (link in Spanish), Marco Fabian was finally capped for the United States friendly, and he took advantage of the opportunity.

    In the first half Herrera used him as a striker, which was clearly a mistake. Fabian is a fantastic midfielder, especially from the left, where he plays for Cruz Azul. Once the manager moved him to that spot he contributed significantly to the attack.

    The competition is fierce; hence he needs to stay atop to make the team. Once there he will need to challenge Guardado, Montes and even Pena for a chance to play.

    It is most likely that Fabian comes in during the second half.

Isaac Brizuela (Sub)

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    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    Age: 23 years old

    Position: Attacking midfielder

    Club: Toluca

    Appearances with El Tri: five

     

    He is especially dangerous through the right flank. "El Conejito" knows how to move inside the box in set pieces and is a fantastic ball-feeder.

    He is great when he needs to leave the defenders behind and has a mean long-distance shot.

    Despite his attributes we might not see him on the pitch at all. The World Cup demands experience and character, and 23-year-old Brizuela is still working on them.

Giovani Dos Santos (Starter)

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    Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

    Age: 24 years old

    Position: Attacking midfielder

    Club: Villarreal

    Appearances with El Tri: 73

     

    A young veteran who will be a key factor in Mexico's attacking zone: A lot of people want to see him through the right flank, but dos Santos is lethal as a second striker.

    This is his natural position and where he plays for Villarreal; this season he has already scored 11 times and made seven assists.

    Herrera needs to put him just behind Oribe Peralta, where he will become a fantastic playmaker and finisher. 

    Dos Santos is Mexico's most unbalancing player, and the team needs him to crack open Brazil and Cameroon's defense and Croatia's midfield.

Oribe Peralta (Starter)

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    Hannah Peters/Getty Images

    Age: 30 years old

    Position: Striker

    Club: Santos Laguna

    Appearances with El Tri: 30

     

    He performs well under pressure, from outside the box, in set pieces, when coming from behind, you name it.

    Peralta can shoot from long-distance or at close-range and is fantastic with the aerial game. He is the kind of footballer who plays atop no matter the rival, fights every ball and takes risks.

    He played against Brazil in the Summer Olympics gold-medal match and scored twice, showing his strong mentality and endurance.

    If he partners with dos Santos they will be a very dangerous duo.

Javier Hernandez (Sub)

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    Fernando Llano

    Age: 25 years old

    Position: Striker

    Club: Manchester United

    Appearances with El Tri: 58

     

    After a lot of struggle, Hernandez played and scored again with Manchester United. It is a relief for the national team because he needed playing time to get back on the horse.

    However, and like it happened in 2010, Chicharito will not start but will definitively be a thriving force for El Tri coming off the bench.

    He is a game-changer and can turn things around with just one play—there is no question about that—but he still needs more continuity with his club. Also, he had a hard time playing with Peralta in the Hexagonal.

Raul Jimenez (Sub)

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    Eduardo Verdugo

    Age: 22 years old

    Position: Striker

    Club: Club America

    Appearances with El Tri: 22

     

    Jimenez has been very consistent with his club and with the national team in the past couple of years.

    He showed his skills with the U-23 squad that won the gold medal at the Summer Olympics and during the Hexagonal, especially with his goal against Panama in the Hexagonal.

    Like all the Club America players, Jimenez knows what Herrera likes and how he expects things to be done.

    He has scored four goals for El Tri so far and will be a key player in set pieces.

Alan Pulido (Sub)

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    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    Age: 23 years old

    Position: Striker

    Club: Tigres UANL

    Appearances with El Tri: three

     

    Pulido keeps getting better and better. He won the Copa MX with Tigres recently and became the top scorer of the tournament with five goals to his name.

    In the 2014 Clausura he has put the ball away four times, including a brace in the latest matchday, against Atlante.

    His momentum, long-distance shot and goal-scoring knack will secure him a ticket to Brazil, but he will not be the manager's first option.