The Mexicans are famous for more novelty items than anyone else, and when it comes to the football field they have a particularly novel approach – attack, attack, attack!
• Nickname: El Tri
• Colors: Green and white with a hint of red
• FIFA Ranking: 17
• How They Got Here: Qualified second in CONCACAF.
• World Cup pedigree: 14 World Cups, advanced as far as the quarterfinals only twice (’70 and ’86, when they were hosts).
Historically the Mexicans have struggled and to be honest don’t look to have the side to mount any serious challenge this time round. A largely anonymous bunch of youngsters and attack-minded, right-sided players leave them unbalanced at best. They’re ranked 17th so are right on the cuff of the next stage on paper. They couldn’t have hoped for a better draw and should feature beyond the group stages.
Javier Aguirre (Mexico)
In the central American nation, Aguirre is considered somewhat of a sporting god, having overturned the run of poor results under the guise of Sven Goran Eriksson. El Tri were very much an under fire side, but since he’s stepped into the role, they’ve gone 5 wins, 1 draw and just the 1 loss. They’re yet to face any serious tests however, with a relatively timid qualifying zone, and Aguirre will have to ensure that they’re not underdone in South Africa. He hasn’t been afraid to shake things up – handing recalls to legendary Cuauthtemoc Blanco and Guillermo Ochoa between the sticks.
Giovani Dos Santos (midfielder, on loan to Galatasaray from Tottenham)
Dos Santos is a typically Mexican player. Largely overrated, and a bit of a flop. Nevertheless, there’s plenty of quality in the youngster who wears much of the attacking responsibility for the side, both in terms of creating and finishing chances. He’s featured at a number of clubs on several loan deals. The latest is a spell at Turkish giants Galatasaray. He has plenty of pedigree, winning the prestigious silver ball for second best player in the 2005 under 17 World Cup in a side that took the cookies. By all reports, Dos Santos has progressed considerably in a team full of experience with the likes of Kewell and Neill sure to pass on a few world cup secrets to the boy. On the big stage, however, he’s known to struggle, achieving little in spells at Barcelona and Tottenham. If he fires, however, the Mexicans should be a handful. Check him out below…
Mexico have enough quality across the pitch to be a bit of a dark horse. Indeed, it was a tough challenge to pick one standout player, and in the end Dos Santos isn’t that much of a star. Instead, the Mexicans have a core group of players who possess the talent to succeed (get passed the group) in South Africa. One of the most publicised moves by the new manager has been the inclusion of Blanco (midfielder, Veracruz) who has already attended Korea and Germany as a World Cup participant. He’s the centre of everything for the Mexicans and his performance and ability to stay injury free (he’s 37 years young) will go a long way to determining their success. Rafael Marquez (defender, Barcelona) is struggling under an injury cloud. If he recovers he could be the difference between qualification and failure. Their largely porous defence will get a huge boost with his inclusion in the lineup. Additionally, Ocho (goalkeeper, Club America) is held by many expert pundits to be the best shot stopper on the planet.
It seems a little strange to include Carlos Vela (forward, Arsenal) in this category, but he hasn’t made his mark just yet and remains on the fringes at Arsenal (Wenger picked him up as a 16 year old out of absolutely nowhere for the measly 150 00 smackaroos). He’s the type of player that could really shine at the Cup and make a name for himself as one of the best young talents in the world. However, in keeping with the name of this section, the bloke that you wouldn’t know about is Andres Guardado (winger, Deportivo de La Coruna), who is yet another quality attacker to wear the green shirt. He’s in the same mould as a Lennon or Walcott and is a nightmare for defences. He was also a member of that under 17 winning side. If he shines then look for Wenger to come running for this creative youngster.
The Likely Villian
Marquez. No one in America has forgotten his studs up challenge on keeper Tim Howard. He has a worrying history of dismissals in big games. It may be true that we only chose him because of the photo – but it looks as if he’s about to launch a zorro-like attack on the dude who he’s staring at.
Mexico claim to play the conventional 4-4-2, but on the pitch its more like a 4-1-5, not dissimilar to the Gunners (is this about Mexico or Arsenal). Guillermo Franco will partner Vela up front and then the rest of the midfield is given free reign in a fluid and attacking set up. Dos Santos, Blanco and Guardado often feature as forwards in their club sides and will constantly press up the pitch. In qualifying this trio was described as lazy and disinterested as they often fail to trackback and help out in their own half. This makes the holding midfielder Gerardo Torrado (whoever that is – but say his name five times fast and you’ll get the idea) a pivotal player.
Mexico is the proud record holder of the most people to ever dance the Michael Jackson epic “Thriller” thanks to their tough jail standards. It’s the one in orange jumpsuits if you can’t remember. And yes, there’s 12,937 of them. And yes, I’m running outta hosting space, so you’ll have to search youtube for this one yourself.
The Fairytale Script
The Mexicans will burst onto the World Cup radar with an impressive 4-0 victory over the hapless South Africans to spoil their party (and possibly kill already underwhelming local interest in the tournament). They’ll snatch an impressive draw against under fire France and with a narrow win over the dangerous Uruguayans, they’ll be sitting pretty top of the group on goal difference. They’ll account for the Nigerians/Koreans in the round of 16 and key man Marquez will have put his injury woes aside in time for a showdown with the Poms. The arrogant and pompous English will sing a lot but be played off the park by their prodigal attacking force winning in a classic 4-3. They’ll go all the way from here gaining a wave of momentum on the back of special taco sauce that is shipped to their training camp. Alternatively, they’ll finish second in the group and polish off the Argentinians next. USA will follow suit and oblige by knocking off Group D winners Germany. Confused? Well… this would leave a mouth watering clash between bitter rivals USA and Mexico and for many, this will be enough of a fairytale…
The side, under new manager Aguirre, looks electric. They’ll loom large as a danger game for the Frogs and could have enough class to upset the group favourites. Even if they progress in second and face the Pumas they’ll be a darkhorse to keep going forward. They have an extremely solid looking spine to the line up in keeper Ochoa, defender, Marquez midfielder, Blanco and Dos Santos and forward, Vela. Goals won’t be a problem and if Marquez recovers in time then they’ll be good value to outperform their surprisingly poor official ranking of 17. The Mexicans typically struggle away from home and discipline is not their strong suit either. They have the world cup opener against South Africa which is not a kind draw and will have to spoil the entire continents party to progress to the next stage. If they look good at the outset then start telling your mates that they’re a real darkhorse threat. Most of their world cup winning under 17 team will be pushing for a start and they’ll be expected to put forward a strong showing. However, this may not be their time and they’ll be building for a cup winning side in nearby Brazil ’14. (You heard it here first)
Outstanding attacking weapons + impressive qualification + easy draw – poor discipline – weak defence – inexperience = top of the group and a loss to England in the quarter finals.