Hector Moreno reflects on his adventures with El Tri
Mexican defender explains decision to play in Qatari League
"We have a wonderful mix of experience and great talent"
Hector Moreno is a household name in Mexican football, and one of only 15 players to represent El Tri on 100 or more occasions.
He began his footballing journey with a golden generation of players that won the FIFA U-17 World Cup in 2005 and then went from strength to strength. A fixture in the senior team for more than a decade, he has graced the last three editions of the FIFA World Cup™ and the last two FIFA Confederations Cups, and also counts two CONCACAF Gold Cup titles among his honours.
It is a record anyone would be proud of at the conclusion of their career. However, the 32-year-old feels he still has more to give, setting himself the challenge of ending his international playing days at the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™ in the country where he started his latest club adventure last year with Al Gharafa.
Moreno spoke exclusively to FIFA.com before travelling to Europe to join the national team for their upcoming friendlies against the Netherlands and Algeria. During our interview, the Mexican discussed his unique experience in Qatar, commented on the country’s preparations for the World Cup and recalled his wonderful journey with the national team, particularly his three World Cup appearances and hopes for a fourth in 2022.
FIFA.com: After many years in Europe, what motivated you to undertake this unique adventure in Qatar? Hector Moreno: There were many reasons why I took this important step at that particular time. The main reason was the offer I got from Al-Gharafa. The club wants to compete for titles again and develop a young generation of players to whom I can impart my experience from international and European games. Also, the team needed an experienced defender, so all those things helped me make the decision.
What was your sense of the country and the Qatar Stars League before you went there in 2019? I contacted many people who were playing in Qatar, and all attested to the strength of the league and the competition there and spoke positively about its technical development. Also, Qatar had won the 2019 Asian Cup, and I learned that some big players who had been legends in their own countries had the same impression of the place. These weren’t players who’d just came out of nowhere. I also considered the personal aspect, as the decision concerned my family too. In the end, we were fully convinced that the experience would be worth it and that we should go for it, given all the encouragement we received.
What are your impressions now after your first year here, and how do you assess the country’s preparations to host the next FIFA World Cup? It's easy to see how the country has been developed and its cities organised in every sense in preparation for the World Cup in two years’ time. Everything looks almost completely ready. I believe fans who come here to watch the games will feel they’re somewhere that can deliver a fantastic experience. I think they’ll have a wonderful time here and could even attend two games in one day, which is unique.
You’ve had a chance to play on some of the pitches that will be used for the World Cup. How did that feel, and what should people expect in 2022? Yes, I was lucky to play on those pitches. Three stadiums are already operational, and more are expected to be ready soon. Their external facades are dazzling, inviting you to come in. The facilities inside are great – the kind of things you rarely see.
For me, the atmosphere of the pitch makes you comfortable and is conducive to your giving your all. Optimal playing temperatures can be provided. We concluded last season in the summer, and we started this one three months ago. But the cooling technology is amazing. During the World Cup months (November and December), everyone will see how beautiful the weather is. I call on everyone to come here without hesitation.
Have other Mexico team-mates and officials been in touch with you asking questions about Qatar? Absolutely. They’re always asking me about the pitches, the daily life and everything. I post some photos on Instagram, and I believe that when we meet at the team’s training camp this week, we’ll talk more about these things. Some time ago a delegation from the Mexican Football Federation visited Qatar to see the facilities. They had a wonderful experience, and I’m sure everyone else will too.
So you’re hoping to participate in your fourth World Cup now that you’re living in Qatar and playing on its pitches? Yes, which is why I need to be utterly focused. I want to compete for a place in the national team. I know there’s an outstanding generation of young players, but I believe in my abilities and in what I can offer the team. I’ll do my best to be a member of the team during the next two years. But now the focus is on the qualifiers and securing a place in the finals.
The Concacaf World Cup qualifying format will be different this time. How do you view this, and how do you expect the competition to go? Mexico are always the strongest team in the confederation. But with each new qualification campaign or tournament, we can see how all the teams are developing, as many of their guys are now playing in Europe. The competition will be stronger this time, and it won’t be easy for any team. But we see this as a positive thing, as it drives us to work harder and do our best to perform in a way that befits Mexico.
Historically, the competition was always between Mexico and the United States, but at the last World Cup (Russia 2018), the Unites States didn’t qualify. This means that other teams are constantly developing, such as Costa Rica and Honduras, as well as Panama, who reached the last edition.
Speaking of Russia 2018, Mexico finally beat Germany after losing three times to them at previous editions. Tell us about that game, the atmosphere on the pitch, and the celebrations. It was a wonderful feeling for all the players and one of the best games in the history of the national team. We knew that facing the defending champions would be difficult. So, we played very smartly. The atmosphere was wonderful after we scored. The Mexican fans really made their presence felt with their chants and encouragements. But I remember that we didn’t get carried away. That night we started discussing our next game against South Korea and how it could pave the way for our reaching the second round.
You progressed from that group in second place (behind Sweden on goal difference) and had to face Brazil. You lost that game and once again exited the tournament in the Round of 16. Has that round become a kind of complex for Mexico now? That was indeed unfortunate. I wish I knew why. I remember at the same stage in 2014, when we faced the Netherlands. We were level until the last minute when they got a penalty and won it. At any rate, this will be another motive for all the players to perform better at Qatar 2022. We’ll work to qualify and go into the finals full of determination, as we have a wonderful mix of experienced players and great talents. We want this to be an historic participation.
You’ve helped Mexico win many major titles, including the FIFA U-17 World Cup in 2005 and two Gold Cups. How does it feel as a player when you bring honour to your country like that? Honestly, it’s the best feeling in the world. As you know, Mexico is passionate about football, so you can imagine the situation when you win a title for your country. It’s really wonderful. I remember the 2005 final against Brazil as if it happened yesterday. Winning the World Cup at the start of my career, and after defeating Brazil 3-0, well everything that happened on the pitch was beautiful. What happened after that will forever be part of history. That tournament changed my life for the better.
As for the Gold Cup, Mexico are usually one of the favourites. I’m proud that to have been in the team on two (2011 and 2019) out of the last three occasions we won. In 2015 an injury prevented me from participating. I hope we can win the next edition.