- Russia 2018 will be Mexico’s 16th appearance at the world finals
- Blend of talented youngsters and seasoned campaigners has proven key
- Coach Juan Carlos Osorio: “It’s great to be part of this fantastic group.”
It has been 12 long years since Mexico last enjoyed a relatively smooth path to the FIFA World Cup™.
Coached by the Argentinian Ricardo Antonio La Volpe, El Tri amassed 22 points in the qualifiers for Germany 2006, which was enough to give them a share of top spot in the final Hexagonal round with USA.
This time around, it has been the Colombian Juan Carlos Osorio who has steered Mexico through largely untroubled waters to Russia 2018, an objective achieved with three matches to spare in a final phase in which they have been a cut above the rest.
That said, it has not all been plain sailing for El Tri, who began the CONCACAF qualifiers with Miguel Herrera at the helm. However, his tenure came to an abrupt end when he had an altercation with a journalist the day after Mexico’s 2015 CONCACAF Gold Cup win.
Coming in to replace Herrera, Osorio oversaw a gradual change in Mexico’s style of play, moving away from a direct approach to a more possession-based game, while also rotating his starting line-up on a regular basis.
The shift proved successful, with El Tri keeping clean sheets in Osorio’s first seven games in charge and remaining unbeaten in the qualifying competition to date.
The road to Russia
Mexico have put together some impressive statistics in qualifying for next year’s world finals. In topping Group A in Round 4, they recorded five wins and a draw, scoring 13 goals and conceding only one.
Though they have not been quite so commanding in the Hexagonal, they have still managed to win five of their eight matches so far and draw the remaining three.
In the process they have also registered some notable victories, winning in Honduras and Canada for the first time since 1993 and, even more significantly, recording a first qualifying win in the USA for 44 years.
The spine of the Mexico team is formed by players based in Europe. Standard Liege keeper Guillermo Ochoa wears the No1 jersey, while Roma defender Hector Moreno marshals the defence, with team captain Andres Guardado, now at Real Betis, acting as the link between defence and attack.
Porto duo Hector Herrera and Jose Corona have the job of supplying the front line, where the young and exciting PSV Eindhoven striker Hirving Lozano and the lethal Javier Chicharito Hernandez form a deadly tandem.
Room for improvement
One of Mexico’s weak points is the defensive transition. Osorio’s team pushes high up the pitch when on the attack, leaving them vulnerable and exposed when the opposition regain possession and hit them on the counter.
What they said
“We’re very happy because we’ve achieved one of our three objectives. It’s great to be part of this fantastic group of people. I feel very committed. As a team player, I’m going to give the best 100 per cent I can. It’s vital that everybody contributes, me included.” Mexico coach Juan Carlos Osorio
Returning to the quarter-finals of the World Cup has become an obsession for El Tri. The last time they did so was at Mexico 1986, since when they have never advanced beyond the Round of 16. In heading to Russia 2018 with a blend of old heads and highly promising youngsters, the Mexicans are hoping to set that disappointing record straight.