Mexico | FIFA World Cup 2018 | THT Nations Preview

Mexico made it to the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia as comfortable winners in the CONCACAF qualifiers and will be hoping to make a serious impact.

Mexico will be featuring in their seventh consecutive FIFA World Cup and will be one of the six nations to have qualified for every edition since 1994. Yet, somehow El Tri have failed to make it past  the round of 16 even once in all those occasions and will be hoping to get past that barrier this time out.

Currently occupying the 15th spot in the FIFA World Rankings, Mexico had a solid qualifying campaign, comfortably topping the table, while also impressing in the FIFA Confederations Cup in Russia last year.

Till date, El Tri’s best outcome in the showpiece event remains the quarterfinal appearances that came back in 1970 and in 1986. And manager Juan Carlos Osorio will be hoping to achieve at least as much if not more in Russia over the summer.

Groups and Fixtures

Mexico have been drawn in a relatively difficult Group F, comprising of reigning champions Germany along with Asian heavyweights South Korea and surprise package Sweden.

They will kick things off with a fixture against the Germans on the 17th of this month, before taking on South Korea on the 23rd and they will wrap up the group stages with a game against Sweden four days later.

The Squad

Osorio named a 28-man provisional squad ahead of the tournament, which will be trimmed down to 23 as per FIFA guidelines. Here’s how the squad looks at the moment;

Goalkeepers: Guillermo Ochoa (Standard Liege), Alfredo Talavera (Toluca), Jesus Corona (Cruz Azul).

Defenders: Carlos Salcedo (Eintracht Frankfurt), Nestor Araujo (Santos Laguna), Diego Reyes (Porto), Hector Moreno (Real Sociedad), Hugo Ayala (Tigres), Oswaldo Alanis (Guadalajara), Edson Alvarez (America), Jesus Gallardo (Pumas), Miguel Layun (Sevilla).

Midfielders: Jesus Molina (Monterrey), Rafael Marquez (Atlas), Hector Herrera (Porto), Jonathan Dos Santos (LA Galaxy), Andres Guardado (Real Betis), Erick Gutierrez (Pachuca), Marco Fabian (Eintracht Frankfurt), Giovani Dos Santos (LA Galaxy).

Forwards: Javier Hernandez (West Ham), Raul Jimenez (Benfica), Oribe Peralta (America), Jesus Manuel Corona (Porto), Carlos Vela (Los Angeles FC), Javier Aquino (Tigres), Hirving Lozano (PSV Eindhoven), Jurgen Damm (Tigres).

There were no major surprises in the squad that the manager had named, with all the regulars of the team like goalkeeper Guillerme Ochoa, defensive mainstays Hector Moreno, Diego Reyes and forward Javier Hernandez to name a few, making the cut. The team will be captained by veteran midfielder Andres Guardado.

Talented 22-year old midfielder Omar Govea was expected to make the cut but owing to his lack of game time at the club, missed out of the squad. Defender Nestor Araujo has been included in the 28-man provisional squad but will not be making the flight to Russia as he continues his recovery from a serious knee injury.

All eyes will be in exciting forward Hirving Lozano (Photo by Hector Vivas/Getty Images)
All eyes will be in exciting forward Hirving Lozano (Photo by Hector Vivas/Getty Images)

At 39 years of age, seasoned campaigner Rafa Marquez also made it to the preliminary squad and is set to feature in his fifth World Cup this summer. A balanced squad with a good blend of youth and experience, Mexico have the tools to make it past the round of 16 for the first time since 1986.

The biggest drawing card for El Tri  in Russia will be forward Hirving Lozano. In just his first season in Europe, the young striker established himself as an important player for PSV, helping them to the Dutch Eredivisie title. Making his FIFA World Cup debut, the 22-year old will have a crucial role to play for Osorio’s side and a lot will depend on how he fares, along with the nation’s highest ever goalscorer Chicharito and experienced forward Carlos Vela.

The Manager

Juan Carlos Osorio

Can Juan Carlos Osorio end Mexico's round of 16 hoodoo? (Photo credit should read RONALDO SCHEMIDT/AFP/Getty Images)
Can Juan Carlos Osorio end Mexico’s round of 16 hoodoo? (Photo credit should read RONALDO SCHEMIDT/AFP/Getty Images)

Appointed as the manager of the Mexico national team in October 2015, the 56-year old Juan Carlos Osorio has had an eventful spell with El Tri. The Colombian led the team to the quarterfinals of the Copa America Centenario back in 2016, overseeing a 22-game unbeaten streak, which came to an end with a 7-0 defeat to Chile.

Osorio then managed to guide the team to a fourth-place finish in the 2017 Confederations Cup in Russia, while his brigade impressed heavily in the CONCACAF qualifiers as well. Till date, the manager has been at the helm for 46 games, winning 30 of those while losing just 7, leading to a highly impressive win percentage of 65.22.

A meticulous person, known for his attention to detail, Osorio drills into his team the tiniest of information equipping them to go out and execute his plans to the dot. His teams can transition from defence to attack in a quick manner but are known for keeping their defensive shape, which makes them a hard team to break down, as was witnessed in the qualifiers, where they just conceded seven goals.

Mexico's star man (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)
Mexico’s star man (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)

Osorio is likely to set his team out in his preferred 4-3-3 setup once again in the blockbuster tournament. Ochoa has been a regular in goal for El Tri in recent years and is expected to be the No.1 in Russia. He will be protected by a back four comprising of Jesus Gallardo at left-back, while key man Miguel Layun will slot in at right-back, with Hector Moreno and Hugo Ayala the most likely to form a centre-back partnership.

FC Porto defender Diego Reyes has shone in the defensive midfield position and is likely to take up the deepest slot of the midfield three for Mexico in Russia. He will most likely be flanked on either side by captain and seasoned pro Andres Guardado and Hector Herrera.

PSV sensation Lozano will occupy the left flank for the El Tri and will hope to make a telling impact, while Carlos Vela is expected to slot in on the opposite wing. Mexico’s leading goalscorer Javier Chicharito Hernandez will spearhead the attack for Osorio’s side with Raul Jimenez providing the bench strength.

Probable Starting XI (4-3-3): Ochoa; Layun, Moreno, Ayala, Gallardo; Herrera, Reyes, Guardado; Vela, Chicharito, Lozano;

THT Verdict

With Germany almost assuredly taking up the top spot in the Group F, Mexico will be left battling Sweden and South Korea for the second spot. And while the two teams could prove to be tricky opponents, El Tri do have enough quality to come out on top and qualify to the next round. However, the prospect of facing Brazil in the knockout stage means, their hopes of making it past the round of 16 stage seem bleak and it will take a monumental effort from Osorio’s side to make it to the quarterfinals.

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