How they qualified
In the wake of El Tri’s historic Olympic triumph at London 2012, few Mexico fans would have expected their side to struggle en route to Brazil. Yet struggle they did, to such an extent that they came within a whisker of missing out on qualification altogether. Despite their status as regional powerhouses, the Mexicans won just two of their ten matches in the final six-team group phase, with the defeat to Honduras at their Estadio Azteca fortress in September 2013 costing Jose Manuel de la Torre his job as national team coach with three games remaining. With his success at Monterrey still fresh in the memory, the experienced Victor Manuel Vucetich came on board for the final two matches. And though he oversaw a crucial home win over Panama, it was only thanks to the USA’s last-gasp defeat of the Panamanians on the final matchday that the Mexicans were able to scrape into the intercontinental play-off.
Fresh from guiding America to the Mexican league title, Miguel Herrera then came in for the two-legged tie against New Zealand and took the radical decision of selecting only home-based players. His strategy paid off as El Tri finally put their shaky form behind them to sweep to a 9-3 aggregate win and qualify for the world finals for the 15th time in all.
FIFA World Cup finals history
Mexico have fallen in the Round of 16 on their last five appearances in the finals, with Argentina halting their progress at both Germany 2006 and South Africa 2010. Those defeats proved painful for El Tri’s legion of fans, who have been waiting a long time to see their side return to last eight. Only twice have the Mexicans made it to the quarters, both time on home soil, in 1970 and 1986.
The key players
After an agonising qualifying competition full of setbacks, coaching changes and tactical reshuffles, predicting how the Mexicans will fare at Brazil 2014 is no easy task. While El Tri can count on a band of high-profile overseas-based players, spearheaded by Javier Chicharito Hernandez, Andres Guardado and Giovani dos Santos, the last few months have shown that the latest wave of young players also have much to offer, chief among them their London 2012 hero Oribe Peralta, Raul Jimenez and Carlos Pena. Now that they have safely secured their ticket to Brazil, the Mexicans have time to find some stability and build for the future.
Current coach: Miguel Herrera
Best performance in a FIFA competition: FIFA Confederations Cup Mexico 1999 (winners), FIFA U-17 World Cup Peru 2005 (winners)
Former stars: Antonio Carbajal, Hugo Sanchez, Jorge Campos, Cuauhtemoc Blanco