The big questions ahead of Mexico’s pre-World Cup friendlies

Mexico’s men’s national team is only two months away from the World Cup group stage opener against Poland on November 22. Before traveling to Qatar El Tri there are two friendlies coming up in California, against Peru (Sept. 24) at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena and Colombia (Sept. 27) at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara.

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Coming into the games, there has been little sign that Mexico has shaken off the rust, making World Cup qualifiers and previous friendlies a tough test for manager Gerardo “Tata” Martino and his roster. In Tuesday’s press conference, injury concerns, fan discontent and management issues surrounded a team that has won just one of its last five.

Mexico have been far from their best and in the hope that they will gain the confidence they need this month, here are some of the questions that will linger over them ahead of the World Cup.

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Will ill-timed injuries haunt Mexico?

Ideally, Martino would be the best players for the upcoming friendlies as they prepare for the World Cup. Instead, he must now continue his ground work without some of his high-profile names.

Martino said star striker Raul Jimenez will not have a chance to play this week due to injury. Martino did not guarantee that the Wolverhampton Wanderers chairman would be at the World Cup, saying that “I never thought we would be in this situation. … I have to think about it a lot.”

While with the team, Jimenez will be rehabbing with Ajax Amsterdam’s Jorge Sanchez and Monterrey duo Rogelio Funes Mori and Luis Romo, who will all leave camp ahead of the match against Colombia. Houston Dynamo FC midfielder Hector Herrera is also doubtful and is currently under evaluation by the medical team.

With Sevilla’s Jesus “Tecatito” Corona suffering a serious foot injury in August that is likely to keep him out of the World Cup – although Martino indicated they will review him again in early October – Mexico now unexpectedly have just over a third of their top XI not fully healthy .

This now means that the next two games will be key in finding who can step up as potential replacements. Backers like Henry Martin, Santiago Gimenez, Diego Lainez, Orbelin Pineda, Erick Gutierrez, Luis Chavez, Kevin Alvarez and others should all get a chance to claim minutes and stave off injury concerns. This means that if there are no solutions, then skepticism El Tri will only get stronger before the WC.

Is there El Tri management trivial?

When things have gotten tough for Mexico, which they essentially have been over the past year, many fans and the media have longed for old-school leaders like the eccentrically brash Cuauhtemoc Blanco or the more stoic and resolute Rafael Marquez.

The perceived lack of strong-willed coaching has become a talking point, but is it necessarily valid?

“It is said that there are no leaders in the national team, it is not true. They say that they are looking for a leader from the past: a grumbler, a curser, the one who demonstrates, and that has changed,” said captain Andres. Guardado on Tuesday about the alleged lack of commanding names.

Guardado later made a good point, stating that he prefers to be a more open and approachable captain. Instead of dishing out the “stiff and cold” conversations he engaged in as a younger player, he likes to be light-hearted and has been more involved in transitioning new players into the team.

Nevertheless, there should probably be a transition to different leaders for Mexico as well. As important as Guardado is in the locker room, the same cannot be said on the field, where he is no longer a guaranteed member of the starting lineup. Other veterans like Herrera and Hector Moreno are also on the verge of being replaced, if not already, in their starting positions.

Guillermo Ochoa is an undisputed member of the XI and sounded almost political on Tuesday when he declared that “in the hour when the Mexican has to close ranks, we all close ranks”, but his impact as a manager remains stuck in the net and not as a player on the field.

It’s unlikely that we’ll suddenly see the captain’s armband go to a younger name over the next few friendlies, but the ambition should be level-headed or hard-working players like Edson Alvarez, Cesar Montes or Gutierrez. can be new guiding forces for the World Cup.

And so what quinto partido?

It is a national obsession synonymous with the national team: quinto partido.

Translated as a fifth game, the saying represents Mexico’s desperation to qualify for the World Cup quarter-finals – and thus play a fifth game – after going out in the round of 16 in seven consecutive tournaments.

As impressive as it is that Mexico have always made it past the group stage since the 1994 World Cup, the fact that the team has suffered a similar fate in seven tournaments seems to symbolize stagnation, not growth, in the structure of the national team.

Currently, stagnation leading to regression seems to be more important El Tri. Martino himself has admitted that he believes his team played at their best in 2019-20 and not last year – when they failed to win the CONCACAF Nations League and Gold Cup but have also missed four straight games. win against their US rival.

Time is running out for him to get Mexico on track and possibly reach a fifth game, but if there is even a chance that could happen, convincing results against Peru and Colombia would be big steps in the right direction.

to play

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Herc Gomez can’t hide his love for the new Mexico away kit and training jacket.

Moving toward that, Alvarez revealed on Tuesday that Team Mexico is visualizing it quinto partido.

“We’re always thinking about it, but it’s something we have to keep in the back of our minds because when we go there [to Qatar] if we think that, it’s not good for us,” said the midfielder.

It’s a fine balance between having a goal but not overthinking it and fighting to achieve it, two wins would do wonders for confidence ahead of the World Cup.

Jimenez talked about it quinto partido as well. He had possibly the funniest reaction, and maybe even the perfect mindset, when asked what was the most important factor in getting to Game 5: “Winning Game 4.”