Mexico barely did enough to qualify for the World Cup. If not for some help from the United States, its fierce rival, the squad would be watching the tournament from home. So it's almost like El Tri have been given a second lease on life during the current cycle.
It would make a deep run even more memorable. They will need to greatly increase their level of play in order to make that a possibility, though. Brazil is very likely to advance from Group A, leaving one spot for Mexico, Croatia and Cameroon.
El Tri certainly have enough talent to survive the tricky group, but their form must improve in order to live up to that potential. So let's check out the roster called upon for the summer showcase, followed by a lineup projection and outlook.
Mexico's World Cup Roster
|GK||Jesus Corona||Cruz Azul|
|DF||Andres Guardado||Bayer Leverkusen|
|MF||Jose Juan Vazquez||Leon|
|MF||Marco Fabian||Cruz Azul|
|FW||Javier Hernandez||Manchester United|
|FW||Giovani dos Santos||Villarreal|
Starting XI Projection
|MF||Giovani dos Santos|
Projection; 5-3-2 Formation
World Cup Outlook
Some managers like to downplay their side's chances heading into the World Cup. It's a way to alleviate at least a portion of the pressure that comes along with playing on the huge international stage. Miguel Herrera is not one of those managers.
Kevin Baxter of the Los Angeles Times passed along comments from the Mexico head coach, who's expecting a very deep run:
We're going to reach the final. When you arrive at the top you have to keep looking up with the idea of changing everything and winning a World Cup.
It's very difficult. But if you don't go with that dream, then why are you going?
Herrera will need to make the right lineup decisions if that extremely optimistic outlook is going to become reality.
The first one comes in goal where he must choose between Jesus Corona and Guillermo Ochoa. It's probably the single toughest call the manager will have to make, especially considering the impact it will have throughout the tournament.
Ultimately, Ochoa should get the nod after a strong season with Ajaccio in Ligue 1. It wouldn't be a shock if Corona gets the call, though.
The central portion of the defense should be pretty much set. The group is anchored by longtime Mexico stalwart Rafael Marquez. Paul Carr of ESPN notes the veteran center-back has a chance to make some history in Brazil:
Rafa Márquez is on Mexico's World Cup squad. He could be the 1st player to be captain at 4 different World Cups.— Paul Carr (@PCarrESPN) May 9, 2014
There are two possible paths for Herrera to go on the outside of defense. He could either start Andres Guardado on the left with Miguel Layun on the right, which is the predicted outcome, or he could shift Layun to the opposite side and slide Paul Aguilar into the lineup.
Guardado is the projected choice because of his ability to move forward.
Mexico is going to need at least one defender to join the attack in order to pressure the opposing back line, and he's the best option to do exactly that. Furthermore, he can shift into a midfield role if Herrera wants to alter the formation without making a sub.
How far will Mexico go in the World Cup?
Speaking for the midfield, Herrera has numerous options and limited space. He will probably end up making changes each match until he finds a combination that he likes heading into the knockout stages (if everything goes according to plan).
Giovani dos Santos should find a way into the lineup either in the midfield or as a forward. Playing in the middle would give the team more of an attacking feel. He's coming off a La Liga campaign with Villarreal in which he displayed good form en route to 11 goals and eight assists.
Aside from him, there will likely be a rotation until something clicks.
Finally, the forward duo of Javier Hernandez and Oribe Peralta hasn't always displayed the best chemistry, but it remains the best option for Mexico. The alternative would be moving Dos Santos up front and sliding Marco Fabian into the midfield trio.
|June 13||Cameroon||2-0 Mexico|
|June 17||Brazil||3-1 Brazil|
Result: Advance; 2nd in Group A
If El Tri want to make a deep run, however, both Hernandez and Peralta will need to make a major impact. The only way for that to happen is for both to remain in the starting lineup, hopefully building a better rapport along the way.
Hernandez also showed signs of improvement late in the Premier League season with Manchester United, as illustrated by Dan Riccio of ESPN:
While Chicharito struggled to find playing time under David Moyes, he is trending up in time for the World Cup with 20.5 average touches per game in Premier League play since April 1. He averaged 10.5 touches per game from September to March.
All told, Mexico might not have the lineup necessary to reach the final, but it can definitely advance from Group A. There is a spot wide open behind the host nation of Brazil and El Tri will fill it if they play up to their potential.
The biggest key is finding an attacking group that works well together. If the side showcases good form moving forward early in the tournament, the outlook will rapidly begin improve and perhaps even make Herrera's prediction seem less outlandish.