North, Central America and Caribbean
Just as at the start of every four-year cycle, Mexico are clear favourites to secure one of the available North, Central America and Caribbean Zone berths for the next FIFA World Cup™. Having already appeared at 14 editions of the final tournament, El Tri have successfully negotiated the last five consecutive istalments of CONCACAF qualifying – a sequence that has fans of the 2011 CONCACAF Gold Cup champions already taking their presence at Brazil 2014 for granted.
FIFA World Cup finals history
With Jose Manuel ‘Chepo’ de la Torre now at the helm, everyone involved with Los Aztecas will be keen to avoid the ups and downs that dogged them on the road to the 2010 FIFA World Cup – a campaign that featured three changes of coach before Javier Aguirre got the Mexicans back on track and on the plane to South Africa. There, Los Tricolores reached the Round of 16 for the fifth consecutive finals, only to bow out against Argentina, Mexico’s conquerors at the same stage of Germany 2006. That exit left a hollow feeling in the hearts of El Tri’s followers, who had been hopeful their country would reach the quarter-finals and match their performances on home soil in 1970 and 1986.
The current crop
Expectations are high for the De la Torre era, with the fanatical Azteca fans sure to expect nothing but the best from the coach. Those in the know in Mexico have said that the current national team is the most talented in history, a suspicion backed up by the side’s recent run to their sixth CONCACAF Gold Cup title. Coming back from a 2-0 deficit to beat USA 4-2 in the final in Southern California is surely an apt example of just how dangerous this Mexico side can be.
De la Torre relies on a blend of big-name veterans such as Rafael Marquez, Carlos Salcido and Ricardo Osorio, as well as a host of members of Mexico’s youthful “Golden Generation”. The latter crop can now expect an ever-greater burden of responsibility on their shoulders, given that many ply their trade in Europe’s biggest leagues and boast FIFA World Cup experience from South Africa 2010.
The key players
There can be little doubt that Mexico’s current leading man is one of Planet Football’s hottest young goalgetters, Javier ‘Chicharito’ Hernandez, who has won legions of admirers thanks to his abundant charisma and a prolific first season at Manchester United and his top-scorer showing at the recently concluded Gold Cup. Throw in the quality of Giovani dos Santos, winger Andres Guardado, Hector Moreno, as well as the gifted youngsters striving to emerge in the always-demanding Mexican league, and you have a talent pool capable of giving El Tri fans plenty to cheer about ahead of Brazil 2014.
Coach: Jose Manuel de la Torre
Best performances in a FIFA competition: FIFA Confederations Cup Mexico 1999 (Winners), FIFA U-17 World Cup Peru 2005 (Winners)
Former stars: Hugo Sanchez, Jorge Campos, Cuauhtemoc Blanco