B/R Exclusive: What the Future Holds for Mexico 10 Days Before the World Cup

Karla Villegas Gama@karlitsvFeatured ColumnistJune 3, 2014

Mexico fans wave a national flag during the playing of their country's national anthem before a friendly soccer match against Ecuador, Saturday, May 31, 2014, in Arlington, Texas.  (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)
Tony Gutierrez/Associated Press

Former Mexico goalkeeper, Martin El Pulpo Zuniga, won the Verano 1997 tournament with Chivas de Guadalajara, where he played from 1995 to 1999 and again in 2002. He also wore Tigres' jersey.

He is currently a sports analyst for TWC and spokesman for Allstateofficial insurance sponsor of the Mexico National Team in its tour in USA.

Zuniga discussed Mexico's preparation games and their future ahead of this summer's World Cup.


Bleacher Report: Martin, let's start talking about Luis Montes' injury.

Martin Zuniga: Yes, there are lots of risks in sports. It's very unfortunate that this happened just days before from the World Cup. He is in good hands; Rafael Ortega is a fantastic doctor. Montes will get back on his feet soon, I'm sure of that.

Mexico had a fantastic reaction regarding the scenario; they stayed focused and ultimately won the game.

B/R: What will be the biggest impact of Montes' absence?

MZ: I think that even when he had a good shot at being a starter, he leaves a position that Marco Fabian can cover. The Cruz Azul midfielder proved that he is able to compete for that spot.

Miguel Herrera has several players who are willing to tackle the challenge. Javier Aquino is a great player, and he had a superb season with Villarreal.

B/R: Herrera has several options for the left flank. Who can do a better job in that area?

MZ: Fabian is going through a great moment. Andres Guardado has not been playing much in Germany. Herrera has to make a tough decision. On the one hand, he has a footballer with momentum, talented and eager to play; on the other, he has a player with a lot of experience.

Herrera has to make the most of these preparation games because he needs to solve several doubts regarding his starting XI.

Let's not forget that Fabian played with Oribe Peralta and Giovani dos Santos at the 2012 Summer Olympics, and they were lethal.

B/R: Speaking of Bosnia-Herzegovina, what's the biggest doubt that Herrera needs to solve?

MZ: I think we'll see many players who will actually play against Cameroon. The biggest doubt right now is the goalkeeper. He needs to make a decision before the team faces Portugal.

Guillermo Ochoa raised his hand last March when Mexico played in front of Nigeria, and his performance was superb.

Personally, I believe Jesus Corona will be the starter. Alfredo Talavera hasn't had continuity with El Tri and that hurts his chances, despite being a great goalkeeper.

B/R: Mexico will face Bosnia-Herzegovina because their football somehow resembles Croatia's, who, by the way have been constantly underestimated.

MZ: I couldn't agree more. Mexico cannot take them for granted. Croatia is a very tough rival.

B/R: What will Mexico learn from Bosnia-Herzegovina and Portugal?

MZ: Herrera needs to define who will play in Mexico's World Cup debut, there's no more time to experiment.

First, those who will appear can relax a bit and will get a confidence boost. Second, such a tense atmosphere is counterproductive.

B/R: It seems like Herrera has made up his mind regarding the attacking zone, dos Santos and Peralta have been atop, but I feel that there's some sort of dependence on the Club America striker.

MZ: Definitively. Herrera needs to address that issue. Mexico can be a very predictable team inside the box. The coach needs to have more options. However, I still believe dos Santos and Peralta are the best option.

B/R: What does the future hold for Mexico at the World Cup, in real terms?

MZ: Reaching the knockout stage will be the greatest challenge for Mexico. I'd love to say they could finally play the quarterfinals outside of home soil, but what they really need to do is focus on the group stage.

Let's be honest here, Group A has one spot available for the next phase, Brazil will qualify to the round of 16. Mexico must defeat Cameroon to keep their hopes alive.

B/R: What do you think of the formation?

MZ: I believe the 5-3-2 system is great. It's a bit complicated when it comes to national teams because some managers don't have enough time to work with the team, like happened to Herrera. Let's not forget that he came to the team as an emergency.

I think the 5-3-2 works for El Tri because Herrera understood that he had to use footballers who he knew and trusted, that's why he capped several players from Club America.

B/R: Your starting XI against Cameroon?

MZ: I'd go with Corona in the goal; Hector Moreno, Diego Reyes and Rafael Marquez as centre-backs; Miguel Layun on the left, and Paul Aguilar on the right, or Guardado on the left and Layun on the right, the latter can play in both sides; in the midfield Pena, Fabian and Hector Herrera and finally, dos Santos and Peralta.

B/R: After the World Cup, how many Mexicans could have a shot at playing in Europe?

MZ: I think Raul Jimenez could be a good fit for European football. He is fierce, talented and reliable. He will not be a starter in Brazi,l and that could cut his chances.

Also, Ochoa could secure a spot with a bigger club, if he plays. Finally Carlos Pena, this is his shot.


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