Andrés Cantor is one of the most respected Spanish-language football commentators. Born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Cantor has covered some of the most important sporting events in the planet, including the World Cup and the Summer Olympics.
He is well known for his signature call of "goal," which has been used in almost every country. He currently works in Telemundo; today, Andrés shares his thoughts on El Tri’s future.
Karla Villegas Gama: Which will be the main challenges against Nigeria?
Andrés Cantor: Nigeria will also be in the Confederations Cup, so the biggest challenges, having seen Nigeria in the African Cup, is the physical play. They are aggressive and fast. Both of them know that beyond this match—which is a friendly—they will face a tough opponent. Nigeria knows they cannot afford injuries, because of the Confederations Cup, so the players know in the back of their minds that this is a friendly.
KVG: Is this a key match for the Hexagonal?
AC: I would have preferred a lesser opponent, Nigeria is a great team, and you should not take it lightly but at the end I still think is a friendly. “Chepo” de la Torre has only had the team for a week so it is a great preparation match for next Tuesday, in Jamaica, so I think it’s key for him to see the fitness of his players, don’t forget that many of them—domestic and foreign players—are coming from some time off. “Chicharito” hasn't played in a couple of weeks and the players whose teams were eliminated from the Liguilla have had two to three weeks off. It is going to be difficult to put them up to speed, to the same level.
KVG: Mexico has been struggling a lot in the World Cup qualifier; why?
AC: The team has not been able to capitalize their home court advantage; they have already lost four points against Jamaica and the USA. They were counting on those points and now they have a huge deficit, which they will have to make up in the away matches. It’s very early on, few points separate the six teams and a couple of results can switch the table. I am sure that "Chepo" de la Torre and Mexico counted on having the 15 points at home, generally 16 or 17 points can take you to the World Cup. Now, after the first three matches, they are facing a point differential of minus four, so they have to fight in their away matches.
KVG: What is missing?
AC: The goals. They are not playing bad. Mexico has found a style under “Chepo” de la Torre, they have played respectfully, in Honduras they couldn't hold the lead in a very hostile environment but they still managed to protect it for over an hour. Then with the USA, at the Azteca, they had several chances but the ball wouldn't go in. And with Jamaica, even when it’s true that “Chuy” Corona had a couple of very good saves, Mexico controlled the game. The best they did was against Honduras in a match under extreme circumstances, with a 110-degree weather, in the middle of the afternoon, it was very tough. When the ball gets inside the goal, I think Mexico will be back to normal.
KVG: Can we say then that one win can open the floodgates for Mexico?
AC: It will boost their confidence, but even when they grab three points in Kingston, one win cannot fix things, just because everyone is very tight. It will depend in other results. Against Jamaica there will be pressure, but definitively winning at Kingston will be a confidence-builder getting to Panama and then playing against Costa Rica.
KVG: Which are the main differences you see in this team compared to previous ones?
AC: The last couple of World Cup qualifier campaigns haven’t been easy either. Mexico brought Javier Aguirre as a last resource to turn things around; Eriksson did not do that good. Basically this team knows what it’s playing for; its style is very defying. The Olympic team that won in London plays a similar style, so there is understanding with the under-23. There are eight Olympic champions in this squad and we will see some of them in the match against Nigeria. There is a progression; they know how to play and what they want. They have had very good coaching.
KVG: Which players are going to be key in this process?
AC: “Chicharito” has the responsibility of making goals, however everyone has to give it all. Now, there is no margin of error anymore; from the goalkeeper to “Chicharito," everyone has to up their antes as well as their level of play. There is no room for concentration lapses because they will cost them dearly. I wouldn't single out anybody in particular, there has to be a very good overall effort.
KVG: Will Mexico qualify to the 2014 World Cup?
AC: I don’t have a doubt about it. The Jamaica match may not be decisive; they may lose to Jamaica and still make it to the World Cup. There are four more teams that will loose points on the way and Mexico has the best team, it doesn't matter if they finish first, second or third, even fourth because they would still play with New Zealand. I mean, with three and a half spots in a six-team tournament, I don’t have doubts that Mexico will make it along with Honduras and the USA.
KVG: Are the upcoming games good for the Confederations Cup?
AC: I don’t think they are worrying about that now. They have a bigger task, which is trying to get as many points as possible in the qualifier. Obviously, if they get them before going to Brazil, it will serve the purpose and that will be good. They have three great opponents—Brazil, Italy and Japan—but you can play all that you want for the Confederations Cup but first they have to get at least seven points out of nine in the upcoming qualifying games to release the pressure.
You can watch Jamaica vs. Mexico on June 4, 2013 on Telemundo. The pregame show starts at 8:30 p.m. ET and the kickoff will be at 9:30 p.m. ET.