Why the World Cup Round of 16 Continues to Be Mexico's Downfall

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Why the World Cup Round of 16 Continues to Be Mexico's Downfall
Eduardo Verdugo/Associated Press

Six successive rounds of 16 and not a single ticket to the quarterfinals: That's Mexico's reality. No other team in the planet holds this record.

In the past six World Cups, El Tri have had players of the likes of Jorge Campos, Claudio Suarez, Ramon Ramirez, Luis Hernandez, Cuauhtemoc Blanco, Oswaldo Sanchez, Javier Hernandez, Andres Guardado and Rafael Marquez.

The list of managers is also long. Miguel Mejia Baron (1994), Manuel Lapuente (1998), Javier Aguirre (2002 and 2010), Ricardo La Volpe (2006) and Miguel Herrera (2014).

So why has this happened in the past 20 years?

 

Mentality

It's not easy to handle pressure, especially when it accumulates as it has happened.

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Mexico appeared in United States 1994 after missing the 1990 edition due to a sanction by FIFA. El Tri had a fantastic set of players who managed to draw against Italy to secure the ticket to the knockout stage.

However, the team failed to overpower Bulgaria and the match was decided in the penalty kicks, which have always caused so much drama and tragedies to Mexican football; 1994 was not the exception.

Four years later, Lapuente arrived in France with another epic squad. El Matador established himself as El Tri top scorer in World Cups, after netting against South Korea (twice), Netherlands and Germany.

But again the quarterfinals were not destined for Mexico. The team opened the score in the 47th minute, but Jurgen Klinsmann tied the game in the 75th and Oliver Bierhoff buried all hopes just four minutes from the end.

As if the pressure was not enough by then, one of the toughest moments came in Korea-Japan 2002. Mexico lost to the United States, the archenemy, who by the way kept alive the "Dos a Cero" tradition.

A dream performance at the 2005 Confederations Cup was supposedly the preview of a brilliant World Cup. But Germany 2006 wouldn't be what many expected.

The team fought hard, granted, Argentina won the round-of-16 game with a Maxi Rodriguez golazo, but in all fairness, Mexico seemed desperate to avoid the feared penalty kicks.

The South Americans repeated the dose, and they defeated El Tri 3-1 in South Africa.

Brazil 2014 was supposed to be the end of a dreadful strike, but the team all of a sudden forgot about the mindset they had had in previous games.

It was as if they were scared and incredulous of what they were about to achieve.

Eduardo Verdugo/Associated Press

 

Experience

Having said so, the team might have played six consecutive round-of-16 games, but at the end, it seems like they have not learned the lesson.

Mexico press hard until they crack the deadlock, but after that everything goes down the sink. It's a vicious cycle.

The pressure starts to grow on them. They have over 100 million people waiting that their team finally has a breakthrough.

It's worrisome. There is no use in blaming the referee, the linesman or whoever it is the players and coach point out in each edition.

If Mexico had taken advantage of their clear superiority in 1994, 1998, 2006 and 2014, they would have advanced to the quarterfinals.

The scenario was completely different in 2002, when overconfidence combined with an intelligent USA team put them on their knee, and in 2010, when Argentina played better and took advantage of Mexico's nerves—remember Ricardo Osorio's childish mistake?

 

Continuity

Mexico have had 16 managers since 1993. From all of them only Mejia Baron and La Volpe have been in charge of the team both during the World Cup qualifying process and in the World Cup.

Mejia Baron held the job from 1993 to 1995 and La Volpe from 2002 to 2006. After them, no other Mexican coach has spent more than four years in front of the team.

It's tough to put together a squad if there's no continuity. This goes beyond the coach, because it means that the base of footballers changes on a regular basis, as it depends on the guy behind the wheel.

Perhaps the most worrying process was the last one, when Jose Manuel de la Torre, Luis Fernando Tena and Victor Manuel Vucetich coached during the 2013 Hexagonal with terrible results.

It's time to give continuity to a coach. There will be flaws and bad calls, but it's part of the sport. If Mexico want to strive for excellence, they have to be patient and trust whoever is in charge.

Let's hope, for the sake of the team, that Herrera gets the trust and time to prove that the change he achieved in Brazil, both on and off the pitch, is just the beginning of a bright future.

 

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