El Tri has no fear against Brazil. Whether it was the 2003 Gold Cup Final, the 2011 U-17 World Cup Final, the Final of the 2012 Olympics, or almost any time these two teams face each other, there is no fear. There is only genuine belief that Mexico can win. And once again, that showed in Mexico’s 0-0 draw with Brazil that was capped by a brilliant performance by Guillermo Ochoa.
This is the same Mexico team that scraped and clawed its way through CONCACAF qualifying to barely make the fourth place playoff (with help from the US), and yet they look like the El Tri of old once again. It doesn’t really matter who the manager is either, because the belief stays the same.
Head Coach Miguel Herrera has not only gotten Mexico to believe in his system and get the European players to buy in, but he’s instilled the belief that El Tri simply haven’t had since the 2011 Gold Cup Final when they thrashed the US. Mexico believes again that they are a true world soccer power, and the performance against Brazil was proof that everyone believes again. Whether Mexico is a world power is debatable, but there is no doubt that the 23 players in the dressing room believe it.
Mexico are still odds on to finish second behind Brazil in the group, which means a difficult game in the Round of 16 no matter what, and one that Mexico will not be favored in. Even as the Mexican Federation expects quarterfinals, they should be ecstatic with what they are seeing from Miguel Herrera now because it was something that amazingly escaped Mexican grasp in that period between July 2011 and November 2013, with only occasional glimpses of it returning: Internal confidence.
Mexico has never lacked in confidence, whether it be justifiable or not. When it was all going wrong, they lost it and could not find it again. Miguel Herrera’s biggest credit is getting Mexico to rediscover what made them so formidable (even if the Round of 16 was as far as they’ve ever gotten in a World Cup since ’94) in the past.
It might not be right to say Mexico’s future performance in this tournament doesn’t matter, because it does. But the fact that they’ve regained the belief that held them together through the brutal moments and managerial merry-go-rounds in the past has returned, and Mexico is better for it.
And it almost seems fitting that a Brazil game helped El Tri rediscover itself.