Mexico are back in the FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking top ten
Coach Gerardo Martino key to their revival
New group of players has the fans excited
After a nine-year absence from the top ten of the FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking, Mexico found themselves back among the big boys in November 2020. Yet the fact is no one should be too surprised by El Tri’s impressive recent climb.
FIFA.com picks out nine major reasons why they have returned to the upper echelons of the World Ranking.
When the Colombian Juan Carlos Osorio stepped down as Tri coach, the Mexican Football Association (FMF) took a whole six months to announce his replacement, taking its time to analyse his many potential replacements. After interviewing no fewer than 24 of them, they identified the Argentinian Gerardo Tata Martino as the ideal candidate.
One of Martino’s many assets is his pragmatic approach to his job. Throughout his long career coaching clubs and national teams, he has shown that he is not wedded to one particular style of play, choosing to adapt instead to the attributes of his players. That explains why some of his teams have played enterprising attacking football and others have sat back and hit on the counter. In his time in charge of El Tri he has been able to make the most of everything his players have to offer.
Mexico’s game is more about speed and possession than competing on a physical level, something that Martino has been quick to understand. One of the hallmarks of his Tri team is its dynamism. His players spend very little time on the ball and with the likes of Jesus Corona, Hirving Lozano, Uriel Antuna and Orbelin Pineda in attack, Mexico possess pacy players who can leave opposition defenders trailing in their wake.
It has not been a case of out with the old and in with the new under Martino, who has been careful to preserve the things that worked for Osorio, while striving to make improvements elsewhere. Players of the calibre of Carlos Vela, Giovani Dos Santos and Javier Chicharito Hernandez have made way for others who are in better form and who have helped Mexico kick on and score some impressive wins. Old hands such as Guillermo Ochoa, Hector Moreno, Andres Guardado and Hector Herrera are still figuring large, however.
After taking a while to find his feet in Europe, Raul Jimenez has become a top-quality striker. His goals for Wolverhampton Wanderers have helped Tri fans recover from the end of Chicharito’s ten-year reign in the Mexican front line. At the peak of his powers at the age of 29, Jimenez is giving his country reason to dream big, not least with the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™ on the horizon.
Jimenez is not the only one reaching his prime. Lozano and Corona are also at the top of their game, contributing width to the Mexico attack from their positions on the flanks. Meanwhile, Club America striker Henry Martin has proved a very able deputy for Jimenez in leading the line. Aged between 25 and 28, all three have the physical and mental attributes Martino is looking for.
Under Martino, Mexico’s Europe-based players are far from guaranteed a place in the national team. The Argentinian regularly dips into the Liga MX talent pool, handing opportunities to its in-form performers. The likes of Antuna, Pineda, Luis Rodriguez, Jesus Gallardo and Luis Romo have all received call-ups and made crucial contributions on the pitch.
One of Yon de Luisa’s objectives in taking over as FMF president was to organise meaningful friendlies for Mexico against top teams, the idea being for El Tri to test themselves against the best. The Netherlands, Algeria, Korea Republic and Japan provided the opposition in their last four friendlies, and Mexico’s results against such teams have helped them make progress on the pitch and climb up the FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking.
There is much more to Martino’s Tri than just friendly wins, however, with victories also coming their way in official tournaments. The Mexicans lifted the 2019 Concacaf Gold Cup and have won through to next year’s semi-finals of the Concacaf Nations League, after going unbeaten to top Group B.
With all these factors in their side’s favour, Mexico fans are entitled to be optimistic ahead of the Concacaf qualifying competition for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022. The team's highest ever placing in the World Ranking is fourth. Can they better that on the road to Qatar? Time will tell.