Mexico interim boss Miguel Herrera entered his only friendly prior to the World Cup playoff with New Zealand in search of evidence.
Herrera declared himself relatively pleased in the wake of the 4-2 triumph over Finland in San Diego, but the totality of the knowledge gained will give him plenty of room for pause. The switch to a 5-3-2 setup and the turnover in personnel inspired the expected uptick in certain areas without erasing all of the lingering problems exposed over the course of the past year.
In the buildup to the two-legged tie next month, Herrera must ponder a few crucial points from this match as he prepares El Tri for an unorthodox test:
1. The most important shift occurred on the ball in the attacking half: Mexico often bogs down when the opposition sets out its stall. The work in possession is tidy enough, but it often lacks the necessary creativity and thrust to break down an organized defense from the run of play. Herrera addressed the concern by directing his players to move more swiftly toward goal. The extra impetus – combined with decent width from the wingbacks – inspired more incisiveness in the final third. It is a tactic Mexico should embrace in the short term, given New Zealand’s willingness to pack numbers behind the ball.
2. No player benefited from the adjustments more than Carlos Peña: The industrious midfielder storms through midfield time and time again for Club León. His driving runs against the Finns – including the work to prompt and score Mexico’s second – provided the spark required to make this new setup hum.
3. The search for a creative influence continues: Luis Montes featured from the start in a role previously earmarked for Lucas Lobos (withdrew due to family matters) and Rubens Sambueza (ruled ineligible by FIFA). Montes influenced the game in the early stages with his work in the buildup to the first two goals, but he faded out of it after that point. Sinha replaced him during the second half and struggled to conjure up chances. Herrera must locate a creative force to aid the efforts to break down New Zealand. Otherwise, Mexico may labor to knock down the door yet again.
4. Javier Hernández remains a key figure up front: Herrera continues to foreshadow rather limited involvement for his European-based players against New Zealand, but he should include Chicharito in his plans. The predatory striker presents more consistent danger in and around the penalty area than his chief competitor, Raúl Jiménez. The combination of Hernández on the prowl early with Oribe Peralta (a mandatory inclusion at this point) and Jiménez over the top late looks like Mexico’s best option up front at the moment.
5. Rickety defense needs reinforcements: The introduction of a third center back did not shore up the persistent issues in defense. There were issues with spacing and stepping all night against a rather impotent Finland side. Both concerns present significant danger given the dearth of pace in the trio of Rafa Márquez, Maza Rodríguez and Juan Carlos Valenzuela. Herrera ruled out Diego Reyes – a good fit given his familiarity with the system – as a potential savior after the match. If Reyes isn’t coming, then El Tri must opt for Héctor Moreno and search for other alternatives to strengthen a defensive unit that cannot afford to give the All Whites a foothold in Mexico City.
(Images courtesy: Getty Images)
A tortured Hexagonal road comes down to this one match for Mexico: a point or better in Costa Rica tonight guarantees the quest for a berth at next summer’s World Cup to continue for at least a few more weeks.
Mexico will expect to claim the draw required to secure a playoff with New Zealand next month and perhaps even snatch the victory necessary to apply pressure on Honduras, who travel to Jamaica. El Tri enjoys a fine record in Costa Rica (three consecutive victories in World Cup qualifiers), while the hosts possess little incentive to perform with their place in Brazil already booked.
Costa Rica will still attempt to spoil Mexico’s fun, though. It is a threat the visitors must take seriously. At this stage of the proceedings, there isn’t any room for error. El Tri must heed these fundamental tenets in order to avoid the ultimate failure by the end of Tuesday night.
1. Weigh any personnel changes carefully: Mexico coach Victor Manuel Vucetich tailors his tactics to fit the situation at hand. He chose a 4-4-2 formation for the 2-1 victory against Panama on Friday, but he could opt for another setup – perhaps by dropping a striker and inserting a central midfielder to counter the Ticos’ usual 5-3-2 alignment – to reinforce the defensive structure away from home. The tinkering comes with a caveat, though: any potential alterations – even the prospect of keeping the 4-4-2 and replacing Javier Hernández with Raúl Jiménez in a nod to popular sentiment – could disrupt the fragile progress made during the early stages of the new regime.
2. Focus on the task at hand: Mexico controls its destiny: a draw in Costa Rica clinches a two-legged tie against the All Whites next month. Nothing else – not the United States’ visit to Panama and the help it could lend, nor the Honduras-Jamaica game and the potential bounty it could reap – matters. Any distractions from the instant duties within their direct purview could prove very, very costly indeed.
3. Remember the circumstances: Composure and concentration represent the pillars of a successful performance in these fraught conditions. Even a momentary drop can lead to chaos, particularly with Costa Rica’s ability to pose problems on the break and from set pieces. Mexico must maintain the proper application for the duration of the affair – again, a lingering problem for this group that almost dashed any hopes of a World Cup place on Friday – to avoid disaster.
Ticos fans are relishing the chance to ruin Mexico’s World Cup hopes.
Image courtesy of Mexsport
Mexico coach Victor Manuel Vucetich spent the past few weeks evaluating his domestic options ahead of the critical pair of World Cup qualifiers against Panama (Friday in Mexico City) and Costa Rica (Oct. 15 in San José).
It appears he still needs a little more time to decide his course of action.
Vucetich named a 26-man squad for the upcoming pair of qualifiers, three more than the usual allotment. He plans to pare the group down to 23 one day prior to each qualifier to meet FIFA regulations and then name his matchday squad accordingly.
At this perilous stage, every day counts. Vucetich will sort through the following choices over the next few days in a bid to reach the conclusions required to keep El Tri’s hopes of a place in Brazil alive.
Goalkeepers: Jose de Jesús Corona (Cruz Azul), Guillermo Ochoa (AC Ajaccio/FRA), Alfredo Talavera (Toluca)
Ochoa should reclaim the number one shirt with the pecking order established in the wake of Jonathan Orozco’s shoulder injury. Orozco represented a wild card of sorts given his extensive history with Vucetich, but Ochoa’s form in Ligue 1 and Corona’s recent struggles dictate the inclusion of the Ajaccio man.
Defenders: Hugo Ayala (Tigres), Miguel Layún (Club América), Jonny Magallón (Club León), Rafael Márquez (Club León), Severo Meza (Monterrey), Hiram Mier (Monterrey), Carlos Salcido (Tigres) Jorge Torres Nilo (Tigres)
Vucetich faces a number of selection posers in his back four with Héctor Moreno (hamstring) and Diego Reyes (lack of match practice) omitted. Márquez is expected to step straight back into the starting XI after a lengthy absence from El Tri and his recent form for León. The identity of his partner remains less certain with Ayala perhaps ahead of Magallón to rectify mobility concerns. Layún and Torres Nilo offer ambitious options at either fullback slot, while Meza, Mier and Salcido represent more conservative selections. The stakes suggest a more aggressive deportment in that area with Layún’s recent displays creating a strong case for inclusion.
Months of waiting and weeks of speculation will end when Mexico finally takes the field against Honduras at Estadio Azteca tonight. It is the most significant game of the Hexagonal to date for El Tri, a chance to atone for the three scoreless draws in Mexico City and ease the tension ahead of the final three Hex matches.
The buildup to the game included plenty of discussion about its overall significance and the particular selection quandaries facing José Manuel de la Torre ahead of the encounter (please add link from secondary preview when posted). Here are five more points to watch as the tense affair unfolds this evening.
1. How will Mexico process the pressure?
El Tri crumbled under the pressure to dictate terms and sweep aside its opposition in its previous three home matches. It cannot afford a similar display against the Hondurans. This group must exude confidence from the opening whistle and stamp its intent on the game early to calm the inevitable nerves and set the tone for the affair.
It’s hard to think of any player during the transfer window who Tottenham hasn’t been linked with, and the rumors haven’t stopped coming in. This time its Manchester United forward Javier Hernandez who is the subject of speculation and with him not a regular starter for United, could he be looking to go? Click here for news on Chelsea’s latest targets, Man United’s moves for Leighton Baines, plus much more.
Surrounded by teammates like Robin van Persie, Wayne Rooney and Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez, it can be a difficult task for a Manchester United youngster to make a name for himself. More so when that youngster has been a lifelong supporter of the club and is fully aware of the overwhelming sense of expectation and history that follow the team wherever they go.
That said, Jesse Lingard fulfilled his dreams on Saturday night by scoring his first two goals for the club during their encounter with the A-League All-Stars:
The skillful brace fulfilled a lifelong goal not just for Jesse, but also for his mother, who took to Twitter while watching the game. While she was initially overtaken by nerves, the emotions came flooding out towards the end of the game.
I can’t watch #my beautiful boy— Kirsty (@kirsty_lingard)
@DoronSalomon omg!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!— Kirsty (@kirsty_lingard)
@StrettyNews me mum and dad are crying there eyes out with joy— Kirsty (@kirsty_lingard)
Congratulations Jesse! Here’s to a long and prosperous career!
From time to time speculation arises about Alex Ferguson’s successor at Manchester United. Of course, we all know that the 71-year-old Scot is immortal and is unlikely to retire any time soon but that hasn’t stopped the UK media from guessing about who will eventually take charge at Old Trafford.
Everyone thought it would be Jose Mourinho but now that it seems that he will return to Chelsea eyes have turned towards Borussia Dortmund coach Jurgen Klopp. Click here for this and some very interesting gossip about Chicharito, plus the rest of the tittle tattle about the Premier League.
In the spirit of March Madness, FOX Soccer’s #BPL Faves bracket is now down to the Final Four. Who is YOUR favorite player in the Barclays Premier League? Can’t decide? Well, we’re providing fact sheets from our remaining candidates and giving you the ultimate decision:
4 Seed - Chicharito (Manchester United)
Round of 16: Defeated (1) Robin Van Persie
Quarterfinals: Defeated (2) Frank Lampard
Age: 24; Country: Mexico
Table: 1st place
Games played: 15
Goals: 8; Assists: 2
2 Seed - Wayne Rooney (Manchester United)
Round of 16: Defeated (3) Clint Dempsey
Quarterfinals: Defeated (1) Steven Gerrard
Age: 27; Country: England
Table: 1st place
Games played: 21
Goals: 12; Assists: 9
"Telepathic" is how many pundits described the legendary striker partnership between Dwight Yorke and Andy Cole, who in three seasons (1998-2001) combined for a whopping 123 goals with Manchester United.
Yorke and Cole reunited for this video, where they challenge United’s current strikers Wayne Rooney, Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez, and Danny Welbeck to replicate their telepathic connection on the soccer field by wearing blindfolds in drills!
This short video is really fun to watch, and Rooney steals the show late when he one-times a Welbeck cross and smashes it right into the top corner!