Mexico: Hoping for the hosts to bottle it

Those ESPN World Cup banner ads flashing at me from all corners of the Internet say it best when it comes to Mexico: the hopes of 100 million resting on the shoulders of eleven. Or something to that effect.

Sure, a lot of countries are crazy about their football. But Mexico has an added burden – mastery of their own Concacaf domain combined with a failure to ever advance beyond the quarterfinals in a World Cup. Is it possible the Mexicans have more impotent inner footballing rage than the English?

Hopes are sky-high once again – after all, this team just beat Italy for the first time, and that’s a big deal no matter what kind of footballing country you are – but the Mexicans’ ultimate fate may be intertwined with that of the hosts.

Unlike fellow Concacaf travellers Honduras, the Mexicans have had a decent run-in to the World Cup. The victory over Italy came on the heels of a 3-1 loss to England, a game in which Mexico controlled most of the possession and were unlucky to lose by that much.

The Mexicans are similar to the U.S. in that they have three or four mid-level stars playing in European leagues, but differ in that the rest of their squad is based domestically. In other words, they sit firmly in the second-tier of World Cup contenders, below the top five or six teams.

The folks over at zonalmarking.com do an infinitely better job on previewing Mexico’s tactical approach than I could ever dream of, but the gist is that Javier Aguirre has the team playing something of a 3-4-3 while trying to stretch the play as much as possible.

The biggest lineup question facing the Mexicans is the recent omissions of the guy many see as their best player: Deportivo La Coruña winger Andrés Guardado. The Mexican sports tabloids had him splashed across their websites Monday afternoon telling a press conference he is less than thrilled about being removed from the starting eleven.

“I don’t believe the word annoyed applies, but obviously one wants to play, the player that would tell me that he’s on the sidelines and he’s content with that… why play football.”

Oh, he also added he has no problems with Aguirre.

The entirety of Mexico would view failure to advance past the group stage as abject failure. A humiliation really. But their group is not straightforward. France is France, meaning they are the favourites, albeit erratic ones. Uruguay is Uruguay, meaning that they are a decent side who could easily battle Mexico to a draw, while South Africa is… the host.

Just because every other host has advanced past the group stage doesn’t mean South Africa will, but that’s my premise. Skepticism hounded the U.S. in ’94 and South Korea in ’02 and they both made it. Much depends on the first game  of the tournament. If South Africa can even nick a draw with the Mexicans, things get interesting. The public gets behind them, and they will be a formidable opponent for the next two matches. In that case Mexico likely needs four points from France and Uruguay, and those 11 shoulders holding up the hopes of 100 million start to look shaky.

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One Response to “Mexico: Hoping for the hosts to bottle it”

  1. What would Sven do?

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