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The End of Mexican Hegemony in CONCACAF?

Sven Goran Eriksson’s hiring by the FMF has been hailed as a dawn of a new era of Mexican dominance over CONCACAF. While this certainly may be the case, much evidence provides us with the possibility that this could be another step on the slippery slope of Mexico’s fall back to the pack in CONCACAF. The confederation seems to have caught up with Mexico lately, and its member nations no longer stand in fear of “El Tri.”

No question exists that Mexico has the best player pool in CONCACAF. Mexico, as has been the case since the mid 1980s, has the deepest player pool, most skilled players and most accomplished internationals of any CONCACAF member nation. Mexico has dominated the confederation winning four Gold Cups since 1993 and qualifying for every world cup the nation has been eligible for since missing hosting the World Cup in 1986. But Mexico has also had recent failures. Costa Rica ran away with the Hexagonal title in World Cup qualifying for Korea/Japan 2002, and that was followed up by an American triumph in the qualifying tournament for Germany 2006. More recently, Mexico has begun to lose as frequently to Central American nations as any time in its history. Panama defeated Mexico in the 2005 Gold Cup, Honduras in 2007 Gold Cup and Guatemala in a recent friendly as well as in the Olympic qualifying tournament.

Then their is the subject of the US National Team. Despite having far superior players, with better skill and technical ability, Mexico had repeatedly lost to the United States over the past ten years, most notably in the knock out stages of the 2002 World Cup. The US has contrary to belief of many American fans never had a more skilled team than Mexico (Well maybe the exception was in 1934 when the US beat Mexico in a qualifier held in Italy, and the ASL was at its height as one of the world’s best domestic leagues did the US have more skilled players but at no point  since.) But what the Americans have had is a decided psychological edge over the Mexicans , an edge based on physical play and the ability of the best American player, Landon Donovan to almost individually dominate matches against the Mexicans.

Simply put, the Mexicans are soft and have been for many years now. Some of the very best Mexican coaches have tried and failed to stem the culture of falling short in Mexican Football. Manuel LaPuente, Enrique Meza, Javier Aguirre, and Ricardo LaVolpe have all failed despite being outstanding managers at just about every other stop in their careers. The flamboyant but unqualified Hugo Sanchez also failed but that was to be expected.

While Sven Goran Eriksson is an accomplished club manager, his stewardship of England’s National Team still creates serious questions. During Eriksson’s tenure, England’s player failed to tactically adjust to Eriksson’s preferred style of play, and also despite overwhelming talent England failed to get past the Quarterfinals of a major tournament. Much like Mexico, the Three Lions had a tendency to play down to opponents and psychologically allow some rival nations, as Mexico has with the USA, to psychologically affect them. Sven’s side with England was quite frankly, soft by the lofty standards of English footballing history.

Eriksson is no doubt a tactically flexible and sophisticated manager at the club level. But with England his tactics seemed to get simpler and easier to discern as his tenure wore on. With Mexico this is a grave danger as El Tri was handed easily the toughest group in CONCACAF World Cup Qualifying and then must navigate through the Hexagonal. Honduras, Canada and Jamacia loom at the group stage and each of these sides has the quality to create danger for a Mexican side in transition.

Mexico has some outstanding young players: perhaps among the best in the world following a U-17 World Cup title in 2005. Gio Dos Santos, Carlos Vela, Andreas Guardado and Guillermo Ochoa are all among the elite youngsters in CONCACAF. But player management was with England a major weakness of Eriksson’s tenure. No recent Mexican manager has had such a gifted group of youngsters to integrate in the national side, but at the same time no recent Mexican manager has ever faced a CONCACAF confederation filled with teams of high quality.

CONCACAF’s improvement overall as a confederation could not have come at a worse time for Mexico. Despite the hiring of Eriksson, confidence is at an all time low it appears at the FMF. Continued losses to the US and Argentina as well as failures in just about every major tournament entered has many Mexican supporters in near panic mode. Help may be on the way in the form of Eriksson or this may simply be a desperate hire of a foriegn manager who knows little about Mexican football or CONCACAF.

Eriksson may bring about a renaissance in Mexican Football.  He may also be to Mexico as Berti Vogts was to Scotland: a foreign manager with an established reputation who has no clue about the domestic game in the nation he is about to lead and who is set in his ways. For Mexico’s sake let’s hope the former happens.

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  1. Keep it simple stupid

    June 15, 2008 at 2:12 pm

    Eriksson is lucky to be coaching against Bradley.

    I agree with the premise of this article though. Mexico and Sven is not exactly a marraige made in heaven but more of the shotgun variety.

    However, we are so bad right now that we cannot challenge them or anyone else in CONCACAF for top dawg unless we take care of our own coaching problem.

  2. Brian

    June 14, 2008 at 5:26 pm

    I just don’t buy it Daniel F. US Open Cup . . . If the money and terms are right, they will come. And one big name you forget in your list of non-foriegn coaches . . . Dominic Kinnear.

    But really, now that FMF have a very high profile Euro Gaffer, you know that the “powers that be” at U.S. Soccer are green with envy and wondering why the heck they didn’t do that first.

    Plus, you really, really think Sven is going to be living in Mexico City??? I think he’ll be in SoCal where he (or FMF) can save money on not having round the clock, untouchable security.

    Face, US might have to pay a Euro type wage, but if they do, the coach will come here.

    Come on folks, let’s get over our inferiority complex and accept the fact that Soccer has been played in the U.S. for at least 200 years, if not longer.

  3. Lee

    June 14, 2008 at 11:53 am

    The great hope for Sven is that the US keeps Bradley and we keep starting unskilled players like Dempsey and Beasley.

    Mexico will look like world beaters everytime they play us if things do not change.

  4. Ian

    June 14, 2008 at 9:35 am

    US Open Cup man:

    The USSF needs to be turned on its head if they aren’t willing to give control to a big foreign manager.

    We are doomed right now and yet we procede like nothing is wrong and you have psychopats go on saying we’re the best team in CONCACAF, which we are probably not and that we made the quarterfinals of the 2002 World Cup, of which maybe four players are left, three over the age of 32.

    So you see we have a group of guys when you take Eddie Lewis and Pablo out of it and also Donovan who have accomplished NOTHING. NADA. They are losers and they are being led by a loser as a coach, someone who was so poor he got fired in MLS.

    We are really up s#$ts creek and yet aren’t doing a darn thing to change that.

  5. Daniel F. US Open Cup

    June 14, 2008 at 1:09 am

    While Sven will be in Mexico all you dreamers that want a high profile Foriegn coach just doesn’t want to understand the one simple thing. You can throw out any name you want, the real question is this. Do they want to come here. You saw what happened with the Klinsmann situation. US Soccer never wanted to give Klinsmann full control. That’s why he left. We shall see if the Mexican players will adapt to or accept Sven.

    But back to main point. Who will come here and coach our National Team. The only names I can give you are Leo Beenhakker, Steve Nicol and maybe if he lasts a couple of years here in MLS Ruud Guillet. Forgot Mourinho, Hiddink, or anyone from Europe of the highest names & reputations. They won’t come here. They don’t want to coach our players & they don’t want to lose high profile Euro Coaching jobs either.

  6. Brian

    June 13, 2008 at 11:50 pm

    I had a dream that Bradley was replaced by Lippi, sadly, it was . . . . just a dream . . .

  7. eplnfl

    June 13, 2008 at 7:49 pm

    I have to agree with Ian. Kartik, you are right that Sven knows nothing of the domestic league, but that hardly matters, with the great young Mexican talent playing now in Europe.

    Sven is an excellent tactical coach and will find everyone in the region within his ability to take apart on film and on the pitch. He will master the system that Bob Bradley is using for certain! He will remain a nightmare to the US as long as he remains the Mexican coach.

    Frankly, I expect his stay to be brief. Mexico and Sven will not work out for other reasons. Yes, language is one problem, and his tactical system while producing wins, will not produce scores, which will not be popular. But most of all does anyone seriously expect Sven to find a home in Mexico City.( Not that I find anything wrong with Mexico City) He is man who will long for the first European capital that comes calling.

  8. Ian

    June 13, 2008 at 5:03 pm

    This blog post is complete rubbish, Kartik.

    You and I both know Sven is going to be our worst nightmare and simply hanging on to Bradley is going to deem us second best or worse, third or fourth best in CONCACAF.

  9. elopingcamel

    June 13, 2008 at 3:34 pm

    So, here is the question I have with all of this talk of the rest of CONCACAF catching up to MEX and the US: is this because the other teams are just getting better or is it because both MEX and the US are getting worse?

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