Francisco Rodriguez has been playing for Mexico since 2004, but 10 years later his performance has been far from impressive. El Tri coach Miguel Herrera picked him over Hugo Ayala, who is in better shape.
Rodriguez is a 32-year-old veteran who has played for Club America from January 2013 to June 2014. He debuted with Chivas de Guadalajara in 2002 and quickly caught media attention for his strength and fierceness.
He worked hard toward securing the starting position, which he did in the 2009-10 season. In 2011 he left for Stuttgart on a three-year long deal, as reported by SkySports.
Rodriguez didn't have as much success in the Bundesliga as he did at the Eredivisie and returned to Mexico last year to play for Club America.
By that time, El Maza had lost much of his speed and fine touch; eventually he was severely criticized by El Tri fans, who created a Twitter hashtag #todoesculpadelMaza (it's all Maza's fault) during the 2013 Confederations Cup.
Media weren't happy with his performance in the opening match against Italy, either. Fox Sports' Spanish language show La Ultima Palabra pointed out his lack of fitness and speed.
After that tournament, Rodriguez wasn't called for the following Hexagonal matches. However, Herrera's arrival to the national team meant his return, as he was playing for El Piojo with Las Aguilas.
In the meantime, Hugo Ayala was making a huge impact in the Liga MX.
He debuted with Atlas during the 2006 Apertura and quickly became a thriving force for Los Zorros, mainly for his ball possession and fine touch.
Four years later Tigres bought him and immediately put him in the starting XI. His hard work and commitment paid quickly as he won the 2011 Apertura tournament and was named best centre-back of the tournament.
With El Tri he played his first game in 2009 in a friendly against Bolivia. However, Ayala didn't appear much and was constantly surpassed by the European-based players, like Hector Moreno and Rodriguez.
Between 2012 and 2013 he was capped 18 times and wore La Verde in eight of those.
Head to Head
Both players had a lot of activity in the past Liga MX tournament; let's take a look:
Advanced stats site Squawka gives Ayala a total score of 520.50, while Rodriguez received a 175.25. There's a big difference in the defense score too. Ayala has 413.96 points; El Maza accumulates 175.25.
During the 2014 Clausura the Tigres defender had 566 successful passes; the now Cruz Azul footballer had 401.
One of the areas of concern is the aerial game because World Cup opponent Croatia have tall and experimented players when it comes to set pieces.
Rodriguez is four inches taller than Ayala, and his percentage of duels won is slightly lower. He succeeded in 56.10 percent of them, just 0.66 percent shy of the Tigres footballer's mark.
In the interceptions department, El Maza fell short again. He had 25 compared to Ayala's 45. The same happened with clearances (92 to 69) and blocks (10 to one).
Rodriguez may have played in Europe for five years, but his golden days are gone. Ayala is a far more secure and complete centre-back; also he is younger and is going through a better run of play than El Maza.
Herrera may trust El Maza, but for the team's sake he should have stayed in Mexico.
All advanced stats courtesy of FEMEXFUT, unless otherwise noted.