As Mexico’s crucial second match at the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™ approaches, their players know that there will be little margin for error against an under-pressure France side. Following their opening draw with hosts South Africa, a win is nothing less than essential for Javier Aguirre’s team if they wish to remain masters of their own destiny, as any other result will significantly damage their chances of qualifying for the Round of 16.
As one of El Tri’s key players, Andres Guardado is conscious that the stakes in Polokwane are high, but he also believes that Mexico can emerge victorious, provided they convert the opportunities that come their way. The speedy wide-man took a few minutes out from his pre-match preparations to discuss this and more, in an exclusive interview with FIFA.
Gearing up for goals
A few days have gone by since the tournament’s Opening Match, but Guardado is still replaying the 90 minutes in his mind. Looking back, he is now able to analyse Mexico’s performance a little more objectively. “Our big problem was not scoring in the first half,” he said regretfully. “If we had grabbed just one goal, the game would have taken a very different direction. But then they scored, and we lost our shape in our eagerness to equalise, although thankfully we did manage to draw level in the end."
Mexico’s wayward finishing clearly concerns the Deportivo La Coruna player. “Being able to regularly put the ball in the net is the only thing that this team lacks," he continued. "We’re capable of doing a great job in training, in games, even in friendlies and playing really well, to be honest, but it’s all for nothing if we can’t convert our chances. We have to start making sure that our dominance on the pitch is reflected in the scoreline, because if we don’t, we’ll be made to pay.”
As far as Guardado is concerned, hitting the back of the net will be even more important against France. “It’s going to be a real battle. We have to take any chances that come our way, as we won’t get that many. We’ll be playing against a team full of great individual talents – failure is not an option.”
Forcing the French
The skilful Mexican is aware of the threat posed by Raymond Domenech’s France side, but does not believe that his own team will make any specific changes to counter the danger. “We will try to take the game by the scruff of the neck, hopefully forcing them to change their style. We play with three up front and defend in a block of seven; that’s our system. Obviously, we’ll take certain precautions, given the strength of our opponents, but our fundamental gameplan will remain the same.”
In contrast to the role Guardado fulfils at club level, Mexico coach Aguirre has moved him in from the flank into a central midfield role, a tactical adjustment he has adapted to well. “It involves other responsibilities,” he acknowledges, before adding, “Javier is well aware which positions his players excel in, and in my case it’s on the wing. But I do like playing in midfield, as there’s more onus on me to orchestrate things and create chances for our forwards. At the end of the day, it’s a question of getting used to it and following the coach’s instructions.”
Consequently, Guardado feels ready for the upcoming challenge. By way of conclusion, he goes back to his favourite topic, and Mexico’s new mantra: “We have to score, that’s the key. If we do, we’ll have a great chance of winning the match.”