It’s always hard to judge the United States and Mexico teams coming out of CONCACAF. Stemming from such a light division, it’s hard to see just how true their dominance on the field will be when playing against true football powerhouses.
This week we got to see Mexico play against two of the strongest contenders for the 2011 World Cup—England and the Netherlands.
Once again, Mexico has been forced to face its own reality.
The fact remains that, even by Mexican standards, this isn’t a great team. The 2007 U17 World Champions seemed to pave the way to make the 2010 World Cup Mexico’s coming out party. However, the Mexican team had a hard time just making it out of CONCACAF.
Mexico had great ball control through, surprisingly, strong play in the midfield by Efrain Juarez, and the help of backs, like Carlos Salcido, coming forward. The problem is the same as it has been for years: Mexico has no center forward, no redeemable "No. 9" to instill fear in the hearts of opponents.
Despite controlling the ball against England, Mexico's only goal was scored by Guillermo Franco—a naturalized Argentinean, who found himself before the goalie’s deflection and awkwardly netted from about a foot outside the goal line.
Against the Netherlands, Mexico had a hard time in the first half.
They were entirely dominated by a Dutch squad that took a 2-0 lead thanks to two Robin Van Persie goals. The only Mexican attack seemed to come in the form of Carlos Salcido's shots from outside the box.
In the second half, as more of Mexico’s starters from the England game took the field, the game became more balanced and Mexico began to seriously threaten the Netherlands' net. Mexico's lone goal came off Javier El Chicharito Hernandez, who placed a superb header into the Dutch goal.
Despite only having played a few months with the national team, The Chicharito —who has just finalized his transfer to Manchester United—is Mexico’s main hope at center forward. It’s impossible to understand the amount of pressure placed on the young striker—one of the few players from the 2007 U17 World Champions to have a starring role in Mexico’s team.
Mexico’s coach, Javier Aguirre, seems set on bringing back players from the past rather than give the younger class a chance to grow. The few players that have been given a chance—Chicharito, Giovanni Dos Santos, and Efrain Juarez—have flourished on the field with their speed and eager play.
It’ll be hard to judge the Mexican team until the final list of 23 is announced and a starting lineup is determined.
As the Dutch game showed, the personnel changes can create a bipolar monster.
The fact that these games are being lauded—despite being definitive losses—should shed light on just what expectations the national team should have come June 11 playing in a group that will be extremely difficult for the Aztec Warriors.