With Mexico just four matches away from their opening World Cup 2014 clash against Cameroon in Brazil, Miguel Herrera’s side will be looking to continue their impressive run and carry some form into the tournament with victory over Israel on Wednesday.
Estadio Azteca will host the night’s action, where up to 105,000 fans will be expecting to see nothing less than a stroll in the park for the hosts in their last game on home soil before business begins elsewhere.
However, Israel have been known to produce a scalp or two in their international history, and the Mexicans will need to once again be shape if they’re to dispose of Eli Gutman’s side.
A party atmosphere is expected in Mexico City with the game serving as a dedication to Cuauhtemoc Blanco, who made the Mexican No. 10 shirt and role his own throughout his fruitful international career.
González Iñárritu anuncia homenaje para Cuauhtémoc Blanco el 28 en el Azteca; jugaría unos minutos contra Israel pic.twitter.com/dinh87NLDA— 24 HORAS (@diario24horas) May 9, 2014
The 41-year-old made over 100 appearances for Mexico and was a member of three World Cup squads—1998, 2002 and 2010—scoring three tournament goals.
While the entire Mexican squad will likely be falling over in the box in an attempt to let Blanco take and score a penalty on his swan song, it will still be a serious test for Herrara’s team.
The 46-year-old manager will experiment with his side ahead of their friendlies with Ecuador, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Portugal before the World Cup begins, where he’ll expect his players to be fully focused on football.
With the coach recently banning players from sex for the duration of the tournament, it’s clear that he’ll accept nothing but a victory on Wednesday evening.
Mexico's national soccer team's coach bans alcohol, sex during World Cup http://t.co/OCzGeP5iCM— NBC Latino (@NBCLatino) May 21, 2014
Israel sit 78th in the FIFA world rankings and missed out on World Cup qualification by some margin. However, they too will have something to celebrate, as Yossi Benayoun becomes the most capped Israel player of all time.
Speaking with the Jerusalem Post, Israel boss Gutman praised the recent form of Benayoun and said that Wednesday’s match is the perfect setting for the appearance record to be broken:
"Benayoun has played well recently and he deserves to be called up. I’m not interested in the record. But if he is already going to break it, he deserves to do so in front of 100,000 fans at the Azteca Stadium."
According to Soccerway, the Mexicans are unbeaten in their last five matches and have lost just one match at home since August 2013.
Meanwhile, Israel haven’t recorded a victory in their last six internationals, losing three times during that run.
Though it’ll be a celebration of the career of a soccer icon in the Mexican capital, there’s still business to take care of.
With the likes of Javier Hernandez, Giovani dos Santos, Andres Guardado and Rafael Marquez on show, the hosts will have more than enough firepower to see off Israel and, indeed, be a force to be reckoned with in Group A of the World Cup.