Mexico's rollercoaster ride towards Russia 2017

When it came to deciding which of its teams would represent the region at the FIFA Confederations Cup Russia 2017, the North, Central America and Caribbean Zone stipulated that a play-off would be held between the winners of the 2013 and 2015 CONCACAF Gold Cups. So, come 10 October 2015 in Pasadena, California, USA and Mexico went head-in-head in an epic clash, from which El Tri emerged victorious. brings you a look at the circuitous route Mexico took to the next Festival of Champions.

Stuttering start  Just one week after the final of the FIFA Confederations Cup Brazil 2013, Mexico were already involved in Group A of a Gold Cup that put half a ticket to Russia 2017 at stake. The squad then coached by Jose Manuel de la Torre reached the quarter-finals thanks to group wins over Canada and Martinique, though only did so as section runners-up, due to a costly defeat by Panama.

The knockout stage began with a narrow quarter-final win over Trinidad and Tobago, Raul Jimenez netting with five minutes remaining. However, in the semis Panama again proved too strong, prevailing 2-1 for the second time in the competition.

Mexico thus had to console themselves with an eventual third-place finish, their arch-rivals USA taking the Gold Cup crown after a solitary Brek Shea goal sank Panama in the final to allow them to put one foot in the Russia 2017 showpiece.

In late 2013, De la Torre was dismissed from his post with Miguel Herrera handed the Mexico reigns. El Piojo Herrera swiftly went about improving the dynamic of a squad that went on to reach the Round of 16 at the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™.

Second time the charm Herrera's charges managed to keep the momentum going into the 2015 Gold Cup, where they put to bed the unhappy memories of the 2013 edition. Once again, however, they could only finish runners-up in their group, this time behind Trinidad and Tobago, following a win over Cuba and draws with Guatemala and the Soca Warriors.

Come the knockout stages they twice needed extra time in order to reach the final. First against Costa Rica, when only a penalty by Andres Guardado in the fourth minute of extra time stoppage time put them into a semi with 2013 conquerors Panama. There they gained their revenge, another extra-time spot-kick from Guardado proving decisive in a 2-1 win.

Waiting in the final was Jamaica, who had knocked out United States in the last four, and the title decider would be dominated by the Mexicans from the start. Captain Guardado opened the scoring on 31 minutes, Jesus Corona added the second shortly after the interval and Oribe Peralta put Los Aztecas 3-0 ahead just past the hour mark – Darren Mattocks grabbing a late consolation for the Reggae Boyz.

Shortly afterwards, Herrera departed his post and Tigres coach Ricardo Ferretti stepped in on an interim basis, taking charge of 10 October 2015's play-off versus USA.

In the surrounds of California's mythical Rose Bowl, it was Mexico who started the stronger, launching a series of threatening attacks against a Stars and Stripes side in cautious mood. And just ten minutes of play had gone by when Javier Chicharito Hernandez netted the night's opening goal, finishing off a smooth team move that enabled him to nudge the ball into an empty net. 

The Americans quickly fought back and levelled within five minutes thanks to a header from Geoff Cameron, though little by little the frenzied start to the game abated, with the scores remaining 1-1 through to the half-time break. No further goals came in an exciting second period, leaving Mexico again pinning their hopes on extra-time heroics..

In the 96th minute Oribe Peralta put El Tri back ahead, only for Bobby Wood to drag USA level once more on 108 minutes. And finally, with just two minutes remaining until a penalty shoot-out would be required, Mexico defender Paul Aguilar summoned up a fierce volleyed finish to secure victory and his country's passage to Russia 2017.

The stat 10 - The number of times that Mexico have won the CONCACAF Gold Cup, with closest pursuers USA on five.

"I feel pleased for having achieved the goal that we had, which was clinching our ticket to the Confederations Cup in Russia. Handing over after a job done well leaves me very relaxed and satisfied. Whatever the result, when your team goes and does things in the right way it is very satisfying. I feel very good about how they approached it: the result was a deserved one for the way they tried, for what they did, and how they took the initiative. Over the course of the 120 minutes we deserved the win that bit more and, thanks to God, we got it."

Ricardo Ferretti, interim Mexico head coach