“Not everything that shines is gold.”
El Tri is on the verge of playing their most important FIFA World Cup in years. The 2014 FIFA World Cup might be very significant as Mexico’s roster is comprised by a balance between promising and experienced players. Moreover, out of the 23 players that will take on the tournament in Brazil, 10 players were part of the squad that won the gold medal in the 2012 Summer Olympics. As such, it seems that Mexico is headed to an impressive World Cup performance.
However, the actual panorama of the Mexican squad is far from ideal. In the past year, Mexico has had 4 different managers and the list of players that have been called up to play for El Tri is as long as ever. Moreover, essential players such as Andres Guardado and Javier Hernandez struggled last season to have a consistent amount of time on the pitch. To make matters worse, Carlos Vela, currently the best Mexican player, is not even willing to be part of Mexico’s World Cup roster.
In addition to the above, Miguel Herrera has shown that he is still searching to define his starting XI. Mexico’s last four matches against Israel, Ecuador, Bosnia and Portugal confirm that “El Piojo” Herrera is experimenting as much as he can. In fact, the 23 players that have been called up for the World Cup have all seen action in those games, and still don’t know if they will start for Mexico on June 13 against Cameroon. Furthermore, the injury of Luis Montes, one of the few Mexican players that was considered to have a secure place in the staring XI, has aggravated the uncertainty that surrounds the Mexican squad. The feeling of uncertainty is such that I have witnessed Mexican soccer experts disagree greatly in their prediction of Mexico’s performance in the 2014 FIFA World Cup. For some of them, Mexico will be mediocre and probably won’t secure more than 3 points in the group stage. On the other hand, others believe that Mexico should be able to grab a victory against Cameroon and Croatia and draw against Brazil.
On the bright side, Mexicans still have reasons to feel optimistic (at least during group stage). If Mexico has shown anything in the in the past World Cups, it is that regardless of the players, coaches and strategies, the group stage is usually not a problem. In fact, along with Brazil and Germany, Mexico has progressed to the knockout stage in the last 5 World Cups. If you add this World Cup expertise to a so called “golden generation” of players, we could be days away from seeing Mexico sail effortlessly through group stage. Unfortunately for Mexico, its path seems to be destined to end in the round of 16. Since Brazil will probably win at least two of its three group matches, Mexico is aspiring to, at best, the second place of Group A. In such an event, Mexico will move on to the round of 16 and encounter the first place of Group B, a fierce group consisting of Australia, Chile, the Netherlands, and Spain.
More than ever, the path of El Tri seems uncertain and full of questions. However, every World Cup we get pleasant surprises from teams that overcome their adverse conditions and surprisingly reach relevant stages of the tournament. The question is: will Mexico shine like gold and establish itself as a World Cup heavyweight, or will it shine like pyrite and again turn out to be a World Cup deception?