(A candid photo from yesterday’s meeting of the FMF)
It came as no surprise when Miguel “Piojo” Herrera was announced as the coach for the national team yesterday. He is all we’ve got for now and as much as some of us would have liked to have a different face, it is somewhat of a relief to know that the owners have trust in at least one of the coaches they have chosen this year. The coaching carrousel had to stop at some point and we could do much worse than Miguel Herrera. Although a contract has yet to be created, reports have come in that the FMF are looking to have Piojo through to the 2018 World Cup. At this time, I’m just content with us sticking with one person. The team has lacked a consistent game plan and identity for so long and I’m more than willing to let a decent coach like Herrera give it a try. It’s as if we entered a sand-castle building competition, kept changing the person in charge of building our sand-castle, and knocked down all of the foundations in their entirety every time we let somebody else give it a try. Just let somebody build a sand-castle! Preferably one with a moat.
One more thing, let’s talk about the World Cup pots (or pools) for just a second. As I’m typing this, the pots have yet to be decided, but by the time you are reading this they will probably be set. These aren’t the groups for the World Cup but the pots that will help decide which teams will be allocated for each group.
Luckily for us, the allotment of the teams in the pots will be somewhat predictable but please forgive me if I’m wrong with my predictions. And by “my predictions” I mean the consensus of multiple sources online, thanks Google! Update! The pots have been selected, and it’s going to be much more confusing than we all thought it would be.
Pot 1: Brazil, Spain, Germany, Argentina, Colombia, Belgium, Uruguay, Switzerland.
Pot 2: Ivory Coast, Ghana, Algeria, Nigeria, Cameroon, Chile, Ecuador.
Pot 3: Japan, Iran, Korea Republic, Australia, United States, Costa Rica, Mexico, Honduras.
Pot 4: Russia, Croatia, Holland, Italy, England, Portugal, Greece, Bosnia-Herzegovina, France.
Due to the fact that FIFA will not allow more than two European teams and one South American team in the same group, there is going to be a temporary “pot x” created. What? What indeed. So what’s going to happen is that before the draw is set-up, FIFA are going to randomly select a European team from pot 4 to go into pot 2. Then the four South American teams from pot 1 will be put into pot x. Now here’s the confusing part (if it hasn’t already been confusing). The random European team placed in pot 2 will apparently be placed in a group with one of the South American teams from pot x. After this is done, all three other pot x members will go back to pot 1, and then the nonchalant FIFA representatives will go through each pot and assign them to a group. I’m not entirely sure how this will exactly pan out but I do really hope for some better explanation before then.
So what does this mean for Mexico? Well nothing too different than what we already assumed. It means that because we aren’t one of the top eight teams in the World, there is a chance we can have Brazil, France, and England in our group…ouch. How about this one: Germany, Ivory Coast, and Holland…blargh. Then again, let’s look at our last three World Cup appearances in 2010, 2006, and 2002.
In 2002, we were also unseeded and then had Italy, Croatia, and Ecuador in our group. We finished first in our group but then lost in the second round to the United States. In 2006, we were lucky enough to be seeded and had Portugal, Angola, and Iran in our group. We finished second and then lost in the second round to Argentina. In 2010 we were unseeded, and had Uruguay, South Africa, and France in our group. We finished in second and then once again lost in the second round to Argentina. What I’m getting at is that no matter what road we are made to take, it will be a difficult one. It probably would have been easier on us if we would have been one of the higher ranked teams, but the job will always be a challenging one.
Keep your fingers crossed. The official draw will take place this Friday.
-Chicharito was only given seventeen minutes of playing time today. The only real highlights was an offsides call and a blocked shot. The striker literally touched the ball a total of eight times, but I guess that’s understandable with the amount of playing time that he has received. Arsenal’s name is now thrown in the mix of teams that have been rumored to sign the striker during the winter transfer. According to rumors (which are always fun because one out of every hundred crazy transfer rumors end up becoming the truth) Arsenal are seeking a deal for Nani and Chicharito for $36,000,000. He wouldn’t start above Giroud, but would be a much better option than Bendtner if it were to happen. Manchester United 2-2 Tottenham.
-You aren’t fooling anyone Andres Guardado, we all saw what happened. The wing-back was lucky enough to not get a PK called on him (or a second yellow) against Osasuna after blocking a cross with his right arm late in the game. As for the rest of the match, Guardado had some beautiful and noteworthy crosses along with a few crucial interceptions in the back. Though, it still appeared to be a lackluster game from him in comparison to the right-side of the field where the attack was brilliant and fluid (right-back Antonio Barragan had two assists and right-winger Sofiane Feghouli had one). I believe that Guardado has slowly picked up his form, yet it needs to be much more drastic if he wants to regain a spot on the national team. Valencia 3-0 Osasuna.
-Although still out for more than likely until next summer, Jona dos Santos seems to be enjoying his time off the field. Well at least according to all of those awesome photos that he has been posting up on his instagram account recently. While his instagram contains mostly photos of him looking fly in his expensive clothing all over the world, mine is primarily made up of my cat, DJ Cuddles. I’m envious. Back to the soccer. Barcelona lost two games in a row last week in what I can only imagine hasn’t happened in over a year. They are now tied in first with Atletico Madrid and only three points above Real Madrid. Barcelona 0-1 Athletic Bilbao.
-Jesus “Tecatito” Corona sat out during FC Twente’s most recent game against Roda JC Kerkrade. The winger has only seen a total seventy-nine minutes of playing time this season, but we need to keep in mind that he plays on one of the top teams in the Eredivisie and that all three starting attackers on his squad are on ridiculous form. The attacking trio of Luc Castaignos, Quincy Promes, and Dusan Tadic have accounted for twenty-two of Twente’s thirty-five goals scored so far this season. I guess we will just have to be patient for Tecatito to get more opportunities to shine. FC Twente 2-1 Roda JC Kerkrade.
-Gio dos Santos made his return to Villarreal after a short break due to an injury earlier last month. The striker came on during the sixty-fifth minute of the game and almost scored a goal late in the game off of a well-placed header but Malaga’s keeper did an excellent job of making a last second save. Javier Aquino was given a start and had his first full game with the Yellow Submarine since September. I was a bit disappointed with Aquino who had very little of a presence in the game. Villarreal 1-1 Malaga.
-Do you know what happened? Carlos Vela and Hector Moreno played against each other, that’s what happened. Moreno had an impressive assist thirty-one minutes into the game after intercepting a cross and sending a long (really long) pass down the field. The Mexican defender had a solid game in the back and helped create multiple attacking plays. I still see no reason as to why Moreno should not be called up to the national squad. Not to be outdone, Vela also bagged an assist for his squad in the sixty-fifth minute. The agile attacker cut back the ball and then sent a beautiful cross to Antoine Griezmann who headed the ball in the back of the net. Espanyol 1-2 Real Sociedad.
-Nery Castillo is back (somewhat)! Castillo returned for the first time in almost two months after suffering a small tear in one of his muscles. Castillo was not able to contribute much during his time and some of that might be due to said amount of time, twenty minutes. Then again, Castillo seemed to have less of a contribution on the attack than Chicharito did for Manchester United. By the way, check out this awesome and lonesome Rayo fan at the game celebrating one of the first goals. Oh, and one more thing. Real Betis’ mascot, Palmerin the palm tree, might be my new favorite soccer mascot. Rayo Vallecano 2-2 Real Betis.
-Week after week, Guillermo Ochoa sets up shop between those posts and endures what is probably the most difficult keeper job in France. Last weekend wasn’t any easier. Take for example, this comedy of errors for Ajaccio just eight minutes into the match. Ajaccio’s defense gave Bordeaux a ridiculous amount of space to run through and even once they got near the goal, it was almost as if the defense was afraid to touch the ball. The team is now winless in nine games and has amassed a total of eight points out of fifteen games. Ouch. As the commentator put it: “Guillermo Ochoa maybe one of the best keepers here in France, but he cannot be expected to do everything.” AC Ajaccio 0-4 Bordeaux.
-Hector Herrera was left on the bench for Porto during their loss to Academica. Diego Reyes was not called up. Side note, I just found out that Herrera’s agent who made the deal with FC Porto is Nicky Blair. Who is Nicky Blair? Well, he is just the son of the former Prime Minister, Tony Blair. Not sure if helped with Reyes deal as well, but he also happens to be an agent for Marco Fabian. Perhaps we will see Fabian in England soon. FC Porto 0-1 Academica.
-Gabriel Piccolo did not get a chance to play last weekend due to the fact that Partick Thistle did not have a game set. I believe most of the Scottish Premier League had a break. They will be back in action this Saturday against Hibernian.
-Anibal Zurdo had a great game for Sabadell after scoring two goals for his side. He now has four goals for the season and will need to score a few more if he wants to keep them from getting relegated. Ulises Davila's Cordoba on the other hand had a difficult time with Barcelona's B squad. Davila played all 90 minutes. Sabadell 3-1 Mirandes. Cordoba 1-2 Barcelona B.
International player of the week: You can’t argue with two goals in one game. This one goes out to you Anibal Zurdo.
Upcoming games (pacific standard time)!
Wednesday, December 4th, 2013
10:00 a.m. - Bastia @ AC Ajaccio (Ochoa) - Ligue 1
11:45 a.m. - Everton @ Manchester United (Chich) - EPL
Friday, December 6th, 2013
7:00 a.m. - Elche @ Villarreal (Aquino & Gio) - Copa del Rey
9:00 a.m. - Real Sociedad (Vela) @ Algeciras CF - Copa del Rey
10:00 a.m. - WORLD CUP DRAW
1:00 p.m. - Barcelona (This would have been a perfect game for Jona. Damn you injuries!) @ FC Cartagena - Copa del Rey
1:00 p.m. - Rayo Vallecano (Nery) @ Real Valladolid - Copa del Rey
Saturday, December 7th, 2013
4:45 a.m. - Newcastle United @ Manchester United (Chich) - EPL
7:00 a.m. - Partick Thistle (Piccolo) @ Hibernian - Scottish Premiership
9:00 a.m. - CD Sabadell (Zurdo) @ Barcelona B - Copa del Rey
10:45 a.m. - FC Twente (Tecatito) @ AZ Alkmaar - Eredivisie
12:15 p.m. - Braga @ FC Porto (Reyes & Herrera) - Portuguese Liga
Sunday, December 8th, 2013
8:00 a.m. - Valencia (Guardado) @ Gimnastic de Tarragona - Copa del Rey
9:15 a.m. - Cordoba (Davila) @ Real Zaragoza - Spanish Second Division
10:00 a.m. - Espanyol (Moreno) @ Real Jaen CF - Copa del Rey
Noon - AC Ajaccio (Ochoa) @ AS Monaco - Ligue 1
Alright that’s it! Remember to feel free to give me any feedback, thoughts, or criticisms through my twitter or through my e-mail posted at the top. I love to hear it!
(Everybody loves free t-shirts)
Before I begin my usual update, let me just congratulate ourselves for qualifying to the World Cup last week! It was an arduous 294 days, wasn’t it? We could have gone through qualifying undefeated or through that exact same stressful process which we endured, but the results would have stayed the same. I highly doubt we would have been seeded in the first pot of the World Cup draw if we were undefeated and I’m guessing we will just be thrown into the same pot as our CONCACAF brothers on December 6th for the final draw. Once the lists are released, you better believe I will do some redundant and worthless analyzing of our chances against our group rivals next summer. I promise to post any of my dispensable findings.
Also, just before I get into the match updates, I should quickly talk about El Tri’s first game in 2014. Mexico have announced their first friendly for next year against South Korea on January 29th, 2014 in San Antonio, Texas. Blargh. I do hope that if we want to take this World Cup seriously we will set up friendlies against decent opposition that isn’t another home game for us. Of the 25 games that we had this year, 17 were played either in the United States or Mexico, that isn’t good preparation for us. On a recent episode of the Mexican Soccer Show, Tom Marshall made a great point stating that our team will remain stagnant if we continue with our friendlies only being utilized for financial gain as opposed to the betterment of the national squad. We can’t afford to squander our friendlies through another game in Los Angeles against a weak European side just to sell another Chicharito jersey. I hate to admit it, but Piojo is right when he said that we are no longer a giant in the CONCACAF. Now all we need is a soccer version of Gordon Ramsay to come in and give us a wake-up call.
-Chicharito was given the start for Manchester United after an injured Robin Van Persie was unavailable. Chich provided an excellent assist to Wayne Rooney in the 15th minute to give the Red Devils their first goal in the game. Actually, to me, it somewhat looked like Chich mishandled the pass he received while he was turning but was fortunate enough to have Rooney right behind him. If the pass was intentional, that was a magnificent piece of play from the little pea. A player like Chicharito who receives the amount of playing time that he does always has rumors surrounding transfers. Yet, with Peralta becoming the new hot striker commodity for Mexico, the idea of Hernandez moving on to another squad during the winter becomes more and more likely. Perhaps it isn’t a bad idea at this point in his career. Come over to Northern California so I can watch you play every game with the San Jose Earthquakes, actually, please don’t. Manchester United 2-2 Cardiff.
-I think Carlos Vela was just “powering up” during the past two months. The striker/national team-tease knocked in an astonishing four goals against Celta Vigo over the weekend. The worst part about it all (I’ll be honest), I slept through the game on Saturday. He must have known, just to spite me. The Mexican international had yet to score a goal in his last eight games before the weekend and completely compensated for that drought. You don’t need to watch the game to know that this was his best performance of the season so far. Real Sociedad 4-3 Celta Vigo.
-Andres Guardado returned for Valencia after being out for a little under a month due to an injury. He was surprisingly enough one of the more active players for Valencia for both the defense and offense. The guy even made the occasional accurate long pass which I personally haven’t seen from him in a long time. I still think we can make an argument for him as on option for a defensive winger on the national team. You heard me right Paul Aguilar. Valencia 1-2 Elche.
-Jonathan dos Santos is still out due to his leg injury. Reports continue to state that he will be back at some point next summer. Barcelona 4-0 Granada.
-Hector Moreno had a bright start against Rayo Vallecano over the weekend. The defender almost scored early in the game, but his header flew a little too high and over the crossbar. He would have ended the game with a positive performance but unfortunately was at fault for Espanyol’s only crucial mistake. Rayo’s Saul Niguez easily jumped over Moreno for a cross and headed in their only goal of the game. On a side note, rumor has it that Swansea are still very keen on Moreno and are apparently going to make a big push for him during the winter transfer. With Moreno already stating in the past that he dreams of playing in England, a trade in the next couple of months may be possible. Espanyol 4-1 Rayo Vallecano.
-Speaking of Rayo Vallecano, Nery Castillo has resumed team practices with his side but was still left out of the game against Espanyol. The striker was out for over a month due to a muscle tear in his thigh.
-Gio dos Santos has just returned to team practices as well after his injury, but staff are keen on not taking any chances and kept him out of the roster against Levante. Yet, even without Gio, Villarreal seem to be doing just fine. The team had an easy 3-0 win over Levante with the help of Javier Aquino. Aquino missed a hufe opportunity in the second half with a terrible cross but more than made up for it by helping create the excellent third goal. Villarreal 3-0 Levante.
-Things are looking good for both Hector Herrera and Diego Reyes, playing time-wise…respectively. Both were called up against Nacional over the weekend and both will be on the roster against Austria Wien in the Champions League today. Although Reyes did not see any time on the pitch, the call up to the bench is still progress for the defender who has spent most of his time with FC Porto B. Herrera on the other hand, played for 88 minutes and picked up a yellow. That was his third booking in his last four games for Porto. FC Porto 1-1 Nacional.
-While Anibal Zurdo was left out of the starting lineup for Sabadell, Ulises Davila played all 90 minutes for Cordoba over the weekend. He provided some nice crosses for his side but it was apparently not enough to support a win. By the way, don’t forget about Davila, the kid still looks like he has plenty of potential. In case you missed it, he scored a hat-trick for Cordoba just two weeks ago. That third goal was all Davila and truly showcased the signs of a potentially deadly attacker.
-It was a rough day in the office for Guillermo Ochoa (When is it not? Ajaccio have lost 8 of their last 11 games.). It’s especially rough when you’ve got Marseille players taking shots on goal like this. Yeesh, I highly doubt the weird hybrid son of Jorge Campos and Fabian Barthez would have even stopped that. AC Ajaccio 1-3 Marseille.
-Gabriel Piccolo sat on the bench during Partick Thistle’s 4-1 loss to Dundee United.
-Jesus “Tecatito” Corona only saw four minutes of playing time over the weekend as a last minute sub for FC Twente. FC Twente 5-2 NAC Breda.
International player of the week: No doubts here, Carlos Vela.
Games! (pacific standard time)
Today, November 26th, 2013
11:45 a.m. - Austria Vienna @ FC Porto (Reyes & Herrera) - Champions League
11:45 a.m. - Barcelona (w/out Jona) @ Ajax - Champions League
Wednesday, November 27th, 2013
11:45 a.m. - Manchester United (Chich) @ Bayer Leverkusen - Champions League
Thursday, November 28th, 2013
Noon - Valencia (Guardado) @ Swansea City - Europa League
Friday, November 29th, 2013
11:00 a.m. - FC Twente (Tecatito) @ Roda JC Kerkrade - Eredivisie
11:30 a.m. - Malaga @ Villarreal (Aquino & Gio) - La Liga
Saturday, November 30th, 2013
12:15 p.m. - FC Porto (Reyes & Herrera) @ Academica de Coimbra - Portuguese Liga
1:00 p.m. - Real Sociedad (Vela) @ Espanyol (Moreno) - La Liga
Sunday, December 1st, 2013: AKA Unrealistic game times for California
3:00 a.m. - Rayo Vallecano (Nery) @ Real Betis - La Liga
4:00 a.m. (might sleep through this one, wait now I’m talking about a potential “soccer all-nighter” with my girlfriend) - Manchester United (Chich) @ Tottenham Hotspurs - EPL
4:45 a.m. - Aberdeen @ Partick Thistle (Piccolo) - Scottish Cup
5:00 a.m. - AC Ajaccio (Ochoa) @ Bordeaux - Ligue 1
9:00 a.m. - Mirandes @ Sabadell (Zurdo) - Spanish Second Division
9:00 a.m. - Barcelona B @ Cordoba (Davila) - Spanish Second Division
10:00 a.m. - Osasuna @ Valencia (Guardado) - La Liga
Noon - Barcelona (w/out Jona) @ Athletic Bilbao - La Liga
Alright, I believe that’s it. I guess this is where I plug-in my twitter and instagram, although my instagram is much more cat-related than soccer-related so that may be irrelevant. Have a good week!
(It’s about time)
If you’re a Mexico fan, 2013 has been a strenuous year. We’ve seen four different coaches, sixty-five different players, and a number of disappointing matches. Since January, the team has stuttered, tripped, and embarrassed itself through a torturous twenty-four games (torturous at least for the fans). Only eight wins emerged for El Tri during those matches and most of those matches have been recent. Better late than never. A few key moments (ahem: exhibit a, exhibit b, exhibit c) have helped us stay afloat and when we were given one last chance against New Zealand, a few of us were skeptical.
I’ll be honest, I might have over-estimated the complications that New Zealand were going to give us. Even after the unfortunate injury to their captain Winston Reid, I was still worried and somewhat doubtful that we would have a good game. It’s understandable though, as I mentioned in my last article over here at Soccer Mexicana, we’ve technically been the favorites in most games we’ve played this year and end up losing or finishing with a draw. “Favorites,” I’ve grown to hate that word because every time it’s used in the context of a Mexico soccer game the ending is anything but “favorite.” Favorites but never successful. That was, until Wednesday. The 5-1 victory at home was the most convincing of the year and probably the most significant as well. You can hardly say that anybody who played for El Tri had a bad game and the scoreline should have been more of a 6-1 or 7-1 were it not for some great saves from Glen Moss.
The weight lifted off of our shoulders is massive now going into New Zealand next week. New Zealand have to score four goals without letting us score just one. A real miracle is going to need to happen for the Kiwis and after their performance at Azteca, I would be surprised to see them score more than two.
Not to get ahead of myself here, but if we do qualify (which it looks like we will), more problems will arise for our squad. For starters, there is the issue of…the starters. Many people are going to be convinced that the current formation and choice of players is the most optimal due to our impressive victory. I can only imagine that another good performance in New Zealand will further justify the utilization of these players for Brazil next year. As I mentioned earlier, we’ve gone through sixty-five players. We’ve used enough players this year to have five different teams with some extra subs as well. It’s frustrating and perplexing as a fan to see so many different variations of a team show up and just utterly underwhelm and fail. So, when one of those happens to work, we get excited. This is it! This is the squad and the coach we should use! We just scored 5 goals in a game, who needs Chicharito or Gio? It’s reasonable that we would get so excited about this but fail to recognize that this could have been any combination of players out there against an awful New Zealand. Just because the plan worked once (or maybe even twice), that doesn’t mean that it solves all of our past issues.
New Zealand were honestly terrible and gave us 82% possession in the first half. I’m sure if the starting line-up for Toluca was out there they would have done an excellent job as well, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that those are the players we should go with in the future. Yes, most of those on the field were excellent but you can’t tell me that you would rather have Topo starting instead of Hector Moreno? We can’t also say that Moises Munoz deserves the spot at GK more than Guillermo Ochoa. Would we really not call up Aquino, Chicharito or Dos Santos? They’re too talented, simple enough.
However, after looking back at how fluid our play was against New Zealand, I can understand Piojo’s intentions. We all know that the “flying excuse” was bs, and that it was ridiculous to not have some Europeans at least on the bench. But it’s not his fault that he was given a short amount of time to create a coherent and confident squad. Our competition wasn’t a world power, so why not just use the best team in the Liga MX (that he was coaching) as the base of the squad? He already trusts them, they trust him, and they already know how to play with one another. I just hope that if he remains as coach, which I highly doubt with the current circus that is the FMF, he recognizes the wealth of talent that we have overseas. Whoever the coach is, he must realize that we will have a little over six months to figure out the best squad available. Yes, Club America are going to help us over this hurdle but we are going to need to start from scratch roster-wise if we qualify.
If we book that ticket for Brazil 2014, we are going to need to have a camp including the Euro players, the current squad, and multiple other fringe players. Six months is plenty of time to have some scrimmages, practices, and preparation for Brazil 2014, but that’s another article.
It looks as if we are going to make it after all. After months and months of stress, anxiety, and irrational yelling at my computer screen, it might end well. Let’s just take a deep breath, maybe have a good beer or two before the match on the 20th and relax. The team might as well do the same, it might help.
One last thing.
I love the fact that Rafa Marquez is back on the team. He has been a great leader and perfectly encapsulates the Mexican national team. Like Rafa, we expected success to come easy like it usually does without too much effort. We’ve had plenty of triumphs in the past but have received a reality check recently and are lucky enough to have bounced back from it. Rafa paid his dues and whether we think it’s fair or not, he has earned his spot back in the spotlight. I believe the same can be said for us.
(I can’t get enough of his mullet)
There’s plenty to talk about nowadays when it comes to Mexican soccer. Whether it’s the FMF, players abroad, the Liga MX, Chivas, the national team, or Miguel Herrera’s fantastic hair-do from the 90’s, we’ve all got plenty to say and there is plenty to be said about. The elephant in the room at this point is Miguel Herrera and his recent player allocations for the upcoming playoff games against New Zealand.
Herrera has essentially called up the same squad that was used against Finland on October 30th. After the injury to Hiram Mier, “El Piojo” has reinforced the fact that he wants to use domestic players only, after calling up Hugo Ayala instead of Hector Moreno. I personally think this is foolish. It’s one thing to say that the players may not have enough time to gel with the team or acclimatize to the conditions, but at least put them on as back-ups. At the very least put on Gio dos Santos, Hector Moreno, and Chicharito on the bench. I wont doubt that the long plane rides might have a factor on the players for the competition, but this isn’t a punishment nor just a friendly. If they are willing (which I’m sure they are) to “suffer” through these flights and the eventual acclimatization, than why not? Whether Herrera will admit it or not, most of those guys overseas are our best players, they at least deserve a spot on the bench. These players would be flying in luxurious first class seats watching Breaking Bad episodes and snacking on shrimp until they got to their destination, this isn’t Oregon Trail. I don’t know, maybe I’m asking for too much. The only real suffering I will have to endure is re-fueling on tequila or Manhattans when watching the game.
Perhaps it is pointless to argue about Herrera not bringing in any European players. He isn’t going to change his mind, and as I’ve mentioned before, these players he called up should suffice. Sure eight of them are in their 30’s and eleven of them have only ten caps or less, but they’re talented enough to beat New Zealand over a stretch of two games. It’s also key to keep in mind that Herrera will be utilizing a Club America based squad that just so happens to be playing in their usual home stadium, Estadio Azteca. In a year where we have seen the Azteca crowds (understandably) turn very quickly against us, fielding a mostly America side that has seen much recent success is not a bad thing.
I’m worried that we aren’t taking New Zealand serious enough or maybe it’s just me that is not taking them seriously enough. When I first heard that we were playing against the “All Whites”, all my uncultured mind could think of was this “highlight video" that made the rounds awhile back. Most of the squad plays in Australia, so it will be ninety minutes of that right? This will be so great! It’ll be like a Mexican version of the Harlem Globetrotters de Futbol vs (literally) Bret and Jermaine from Flight of the Conchords, right? Not exactly, and the more research I do, the more I recognize the fact that they do actually have some great talent on the squad. They have this young guy named Marco Rojas who is returning from a recent injury, but if he is half as fast as he used to be, our defense will be torn to shreds.
Winston Reid, who plays as central defender, starts for West Ham United and is a strong and technical player that should definitely give any other of our forwards trouble (turns out, he might be injured for the upcoming games, huge loss for New Zealand). Don’t expect gorgeous triangle passing or complex marking from New Zealand, but do expect speedy play, crosses, and utilization of their strength and size. I could go on for days about this upcoming series of games but I’ll leave that for next week.
-Tough times once again for Chicharito. After not receiving a single minute of playing time against Fulham, the hungry striker was given an opportunity to once again prove himself against Real Sociedad yesterday. There wasn’t very many opportunities for the poacher but when those opportunities arrived, he failed to capitalize. The most notable mistake was a clear opportunity in the second half when Hernandez lofted the ball over the bar when he was just yards away from the net. Manchester United seemed content with the tie and Real Sociedad seemed to have a similar disposition with this being their only point so far in the Champions League. Manchester United 0-0 Real Sociedad.
-Since we’re discussing Chicharito, we might as well bring up Carlos Vela who was also on display in the Champions League game yesterday. Vela also had a bit of a quiet game against United but it was obvious that Sociedad’s tactics were focused more on their defense and counter attacks. Oddly enough, United’s lack of finishing in the final third actually lead to Sociedad taking more shots (Vela had three) even though they only had 45% possession. Vela has been consistent with Sociedad recently but is still underwhelming in comparison to his old form. In his last thirteen games, Vela has created only one goal and two assists. Manchester United 0-0 Real Sociedad.
-Andres Guardado will be out for 2-3 weeks after injuring himself last week against Almeria. Guardado was obviously out for Valencia’s game against Getafe over the weekend. Valencia 1-0 Getafe.
-Jona dos Santos just underwent surgery on his right knee yesterday. We still expect him to be out for at least six months. Barcelona 1-0 Espanyol.
-Hector Moreno had a decent game against Barcelona over the weekend. Well, he was decent until Neymar decided to double nutmeg two Espanyol defenders and create a beautiful assist right in front of Moreno. It was a big mistake and one that lead to their inevitable loss to Barcelona but considering the circumstances, Moreno still did an overall acceptable job against the likes of Messi and friends. Barcelona 1-0 Espanyol.
-Nery Castillo is once again injured with a muscle tear and will be out for four to six weeks. Rayo Vallecano 2-3 Real Madrid.
-Injuries injuries everywhere. Early in the second half against Elche, Gio dos Santos had to be subbed off after what appeared to be a thigh injury. Early reports have claimed that he will be out for four weeks but further testing will be done in a few days to determine the damage. In the same game Javier Aquino came on as a sub during the last ten minutes of the match. Not enough time to make a serious impact but the young Mexican did well with the time he had. Villarreal 1-0 Elche.
-Over in the Spanish Second Division, Ulises Davila received just twenty-two minutes in Cordoba’s 2-2 tie against Sporting Gijon while Anibal Zurdo received twenty-six minutes for Sabadell during their 2-1 win over Murcia.
-I make fun of Mexico’s current defensive woes but they are at least slightly better than that of Ajaccio’s. Guillermo Ochoa does solid work week in and week out while his defenders are essentially sauntering around each other. Tough game for Ochoa with horrific defending from his side. Ajaccio 1-3 Valenciennes.
-Over in Scotland, Gabriel Piccolo played all ninety minutes in Partick Thistle’s beating by Aberdeen. Partick Thistle 0-4 Aberdeen.
-Jesus “Tecatito” Corona came on as a sub during the sixty-sixth minute for Twente over the weekend. Twente 2-2 NEC Nijmegen.
-Hector Herrera may not see any action today due to his red card, but he did come on as a sub during the last ten minutes of Porto’s game against Belenenses. Diego Reyes remains with Porto’s B squad. Porto 1-1 Belenenses.
International player of the week: Well, everybody is either injured or had a bad game so I’m going to have to go with Carlos Vela who was neither but wasn’t spectacular either.
Games Games Games (pacific standard time)
Wednesday, November 6th 2013
9:00 a.m. - Porto (w/out Herrera & Reyes) @ Zenit St. Petersburg - Champions League
11:45 a.m. - AC Milan @ Barcelona (w/out Jona) - Champions League
Thursday, November 7th 2013
10:00 a.m. - Valencia (w/out Guardado) @ St. Gallen - Europa League
Saturday, November 9th 2013
7:00 a.m. - St. Mirren @ Partick Thistle (Piccolo) - Scottish Premiership
7:00 a.m. - Real Sociedad (Vela) @ Real Madrid - La Liga
11:00 a.m. - Ajaccio (Ochoa) @ Toulouse - Ligue 1
Sunday, November 10th 2013
3:00 a.m. - Sevilla @ Espanyol (Moreno) - La Liga
3:30 a.m. - Twente (Tecatito) @ PEC Zwolle - Eredivisie
8:00 a.m. - Cordoba (Davila) @ AD Alcorcon - Spanish Second Divison
8:00 a.m. - Sabadell (Zurdo) @ Sporting Gijon - Spanish Second Division
8:00 a.m. - Real Valladolid @ Valencia (w/out Guardado) - La Liga
8:10 a.m. - Arsenal @ Manchester United (Chich) - EPL
11:00 a.m. - Atletico Madrid @ Villarreal (Aquino & w/out Gio) - La Liga
Noon - Barcelona (w/out Jona) @ Real Betis - La Liga
1:00 p.m. - Rayo Vallecano (w/out Nery) @ Celta Vigo - La Liga
Also, don’t forget that our U-17 team plays in their respective World Cup Final against Nigeria this Friday at 8:00 a.m! Go Mexico!
Don’t forget to follow me on twitter for more of my ramblings and if you feel the need to creep on me some more, I just created an instagram account right here or just look up “funkydiscoduck”
(You really showed that minor league squad who’s boss guys)
Why do we have to beat up on the small kids to get our mojo back? All the big kids (alright, most are our height and slightly smaller) have been beating us up this year and now we have to pick on the smaller kids to make it to the…bully…world…cup? What I’m getting at is that this is a lose-lose situation, or it at least appears to be. If we beat Finland’s “B/C” squad, it wont seem like a big deal to most people. Of the twenty players they are bringing, only one has more than seven caps for the team. Eleven of the twenty have never even put on the national jersey for Finland before. It’s a given that they don’t really care all too much for this friendly and anything less than a 2-0 win for us will probably be seen as a failure. Their “A” squad was definitely impressive and ignoring the fact that they are currently ranked 63rd in the FIFA rankings (you should probably just ignore FIFA rankings anyways), their best team would have probably beat ours at this point with our low morale and momentum. They tied Spain 1-1 in Spain during World Cup Qualifying earlier this year, how many teams can say that? Unfortunately for the “Eagle-Owls,” they are no longer in contention of making it into the World Cup. Which is quite understandable when you consider the luck any team would have with Spain and France in their qualifying group.
What’s weird to think about is that we were just a few minutes away from the ambivalence that Finland has towards this game. We could have been knocked out of qualifying for the World Cup earlier this month. This game, which should have been an actual exhibition, has now become the most crucial (and only) preparation game going into our playoff matches next month. It was supposed to be a “victory-lap match” and for about ten minutes late into the night on October 15th, it was just a consolation match.
When they announced this friendly a few months ago, I immediately decided to attend it. For one, it’s on my 25th birthday. Secondly, as a resident of California and a Mexico soccer fan, it would be foolish for me to miss this opportunity. What do I know about Finnish soccer? Just as much as I’ve stated in the first paragraph of this article, that’s for sure. It didn’t matter though, even if El Tri’s “C” squad went up against the Golden State Warriors in chess, I would be there. As the decorated Mexican writer/soccer analyst Juan Villoro has stated, I’m just a member of an “emotional community" that cares more about finding a group to support as opposed to caring about it’s results. I most definitely agree with you Mr. Villoro, but it’s easier said then done when your team is constantly letting you down. Let’s go back to October 15th.
I assume that like me, you try not to think about this day. We were so naive to assume that it would end so well, weren’t we? Looking at all of the permutations and possibilities before the Costa Rica game, we thought it would take quite some stroke of bad luck to see us out of the World Cup. All we had to do was tie, that was it! Even if we lost, Panama would have to beat the United States. What was even more reassuring was knowing that there was still a possibility of qualifying directly to the World Cup! It was especially promising after the Jamaica and Honduras game was tied up 1-1 after just three minutes, anything seemed possible.
Fast forward about 80 minutes later and you find me in a frantic state. I’m angry, sad, and confused all at once. I was supposed to take about a week off of drinking (for an upcoming marathon) but had to take a shot of tequila to settle my nerves. It’s a powerless and hopeless feeling knowing that no matter how much you scream, yell, and beg for your team to do better, it wont make a difference. It was obvious that El Tri had been spiraling downwards for months but for the first time all year I thought to myself: “We are not going to the World Cup.” It seemed like too much of a cliche or stereotype, but I sat there saying it over and over again in my head: “We are not going to the World Cup.” I honestly told myself that I wouldn’t want to watch soccer anymore for the rest of the year, you know what, I wouldn’t even watch the World Cup next year. Which definitely meant that I wouldn’t want to go to the Finland friendly, why would I want to go? I sat there like a spoiled child and when those two goals came in from the United States I still acted like a spoiled child. At first elated, and then questioning whether I really deserved what I had just received. It felt like we cheated on a test. I felt like that one jerk guy in “Titanic” who took a kid with him to get on one of the last lifeboats. You know who I’m talking about.
For better or worse, we were given a second chance. I would rather have us get through this next month with our admittedly odd and last-minute constructed “Club America-based” squad than moping around and feeling embarrassed about making it into the World Cup through a playoff round. Somehow, someway, the soccer gods gave us a second opportunity to make it into the World Cup and it would be foolish of us not to take advantage of it. We need to come out with confidence. That seems to be the one thing that is seriously lacking from our squad, confidence. Throughout the year our defense has looked shaky, our midfield hopeless, and our forwards nervous. We have gone through sixty-five players and four coaches this year in a desperate attempt to figure out something that would work. It’s the equivalent to guessing and checking when it has come down to choosing what’s right for the national team.
As a fan, I’m still not entirely happy with the call-ups and the choosing as Herrera as coach. However, the current team we have has all of the capabilities to give us convincing wins against Finland and New Zealand. There are unfortunately no excuses for us anymore because if we don’t start playing like a cohesive unit now, then when? In 2016 for the next round of World Cup qualifying?
I think we will be fine. It was a bit worrying to see how we would do in a scrimmage last week against Altamira but the squad was able to find an easy 4-1 win. Granted, Altamira is a minor league squad. A win against Finland would give us some much needed momentum going into next month, and the last thing that we currently need is another reason to worry about El Tri. As I’ve mentioned, do I think we have the right setup for the national team? God no, I would change almost everything. Still, they players and coach we have are smart enough and talented enough to take us to the World Cup. The next step is dominating field on Wednesday night.
Mexico 3-1 Finland
(Bring the mullet back Miguel)
Once again, we have a new coach. The FMF now make Roman Abramovich look like a kind owner after bringing in Miguel “Piojo” Herrera as the fourth coach for Mexico this year. Yet, his tenure isn’t set in stone either. Piojo will be brought in “on loan” for the three upcoming matches and may not remain as coach even if he helps El Tri qualify for the World Cup. Although reports have said that if he does help us qualify, he will get a nice $50,000 bonus, so let’s not feel too bad.
Mexico currently have a contract with Soccer United Marketing which requires them to have five friendlies in the United States this year. The fifth and final friendly against Finland will be held on October 30th in San Diego. When it was scheduled, I at first assumed it was going to be more of a “Alright! We’re going to the World Cup! Victory lap friendly for us” instead of a “OH GOD, THIS IS OUR FINAL TUNE-UP GAME BEFORE OUR PLAY-OFF MATCHES.”
As I’ve stressed before, I can’t see us having any trouble at all against New Zealand. Man for man, we are much better than them. A Club America-based side that’s going to have a game in Estadio Azteca seems like a perfect scenario for us to win. (For fun, I simulated a home and away match between New Zealand and America in FIFA 14. America won at home 2-0 and tied 0-0 away.)
Yet, this is the exact approach that got us where we are currently at. Both players and fans never really took the qualifying games that seriously because we thought it was going to be a cake-walk. We need to come out and play as if these games determine whether we are going to the World Cup, because they are going to determine whether we are going to the World Cup. Even the Finland friendly will be significant because it is our only opportunity before the playoff games to see what our new squad and roster is capable of. I’m going to go ahead and assume that we will win both games but that’s exactly what we’ve all been predicting for most games this year and look how that turned out…
That’s enough complaining for now, let’s go to the international round-up!
-Things aren’t looking good for Chicharito right now. He did not get a single minute of playing time in Manchester United’s last three games and was unimpressive in Mexico’s last two matches. Every soccer player occasionally hits a dip in form but this seems to be lasting longer than it should. Now, a transfer for the striker seems more likely with interest coming from Italy and other English clubs. It will be interesting to see if he gets some time against Carlos Vela and his Sociedad side on Wednesday. Manchester United 1-1 Southampton.
-Speaking of Sociedad, Carlos Vela seems to have found his form once again. Vela provided an assist for Real Sociedad’s second goal against Valencia over the weekend. Vela didn’t have any shots on net but was active enough on the attack and is somehow still a magnet for garnering free-kicks off of fouls. Real Sociedad 2-1 Valencia.
-Over on Valencia’s side, Andres Guardado played once again as a left-back. He hasn’t started this season as a winger and he appears to be slowly setting himself up as a starter in the back for Valencia. He has yet to prove himself to me as a starting member of the Mexican national team, but Guardado has had a few decent games as a defender for Valencia and might be an option to consider. His crosses can be wacky but it would be nice to have a defender of his caliber who can work the ball up in the attack. Valencia 1-2 Real Sociedad.
-Jona dos Santos once again watched from the bench as Barcelona played against Osasuna. The player has hinted at leaving the club in the past and it looks more than likely now that he will find a team to go to this winter. Real Sociedad appear to be in the lead for a transfer but there is plenty of time for other offers to appear as well. Barcelona 0-0 Osasuna.
-Say what you will about Nery Castillo (I definitely have plenty), but the guy is starting for a La Liga team and I applaud him for that. The guy has seen more playing time than Chicharito this month and even had a couple of shots over the weekend. That being said, he was still one of the more uninspiring players from Rayo and was subbed off in the middle of the second half. Anything is possible if Nery is out there playing in La Liga. Rayo Vallecano 1-0 Almeria.
-Villarreal suffered their second setback in three games against Athletic Bilbao yesterday. Gio dos Santos and especially Javier Aquino both had a quiet game during their loss. The sending off of fellow team mate Bruno halfway through the game didn’t help either. Aquino still needs to work on his defensive game and Gio was subbed off just after he seemed to be picking up his game. Villarreal 0-2 Athletic Bilbao.
-Hector Moreno returned from his injury to help Espanyol beat Atletico Madrid on Saturday for their first win in four games. Moreno led a solid defensive unit for Espanyol that had no trouble dealing with Diego Costa and David Villa. Moreno is still rumored to move with Barcelona but I highly doubt that Javier Aguirre would be willing to let the central defender go at any point soon. Espanyol 1-0 Atletico Madrid.
-Exciting times over in the Spanish Second Division! Cordoba and Ulises Davila hosted Anibal Zurdo and his Sabadell colleagues. Davila is slowly getting more playing time for Cordoba with 70 minutes played over the weekend while Zurdo played the whole game. Cordoba 1-0 Sabadell.
- Guillermo Ochoa just can’t catch a break when he needs one. Nobody doubts his talent or skill but after holding Nantes scoreless for eighty-six minutes, a small lapse in judgement provided an opportunity for Alejandro Bedoya to find the game-winning goal. Ochoa unfortunately also had two average games for the national team as well, which once again leaves us wondering who our goalkeeper for the national team should be. Ajaccio 0-1 Nantes.
-Jesus “Tecatito” Corona sat on the bench last Saturday as his side played against Ajax. FC Twente 1-1 Ajax.
-Good news, Hector Herrera just created a Champions League record! Bad news, it’s for the fastest sending off with two yellow cards. One in the fifth minute and the next just one minute afterwards. Diego Reyes was once again not even called up to the bench. (Game still not over) FC Porto 0-0 Zenit St. Petersburg
International player of the week: Has to be Hector Moreno. After considering so many terrible performances his is the one with the least amount of mistakes and blunders.
GAMES (pacific standard time)
Wednesday, October 23rd 2013
11:45 a.m. - Real Sociedad (Vela) @ Manchester United (Chich) - Champions League
Thursday, October 24th 2013
Noon - St. Gallen @ Valencia (Guardado) - Europa League
Friday, October 25th 2013
Noon - Real Valladolid @ Rayo Vallecano (Nery) - La Liga
Saturday, October 26th 2013
7:00 a.m. - Stoke City @ Manchester United (Chich) - EPL
9:00 a.m. - Real Madrid @ Barcelona (Jona) - La Liga
9:45 a.m. - FC Twente (Tecatito) @ ADO - Eredivisie
11:00 a.m. - Ajaccio (Ochoa) @ Guingamp - Ligue 1
1:00 p.m. - Espanyol (Moreno) @ Levante - La Liga
Sunday, October 27th 2013
9:00 a.m. - Valencia (Guardado) @ Villarreal (Gio & Aquino) - La Liga
9:00 a.m. - Sabadell (Zurdo) @ Lugo - Spanish Second Division
9:00 a.m. - Cordoba (Davila) @ Murcia - Spanish Second Division
11:00 a.m. - Almeria @ Real Sociedad (Vela) - La Liga
12:45 p.m. - Sporting Lisbon @ FC Porto (Reyes & Herrera) - Portuguese Liga
(I feel like we (Mexico) just cheated on a test and got a passing grade)
The world is an odd place, especially when it comes to qualifying for it’s own cup (I haven’t checked how impartial or strange other planets are with their soccer tournaments though). With one spot automatically given to the World Cup host, thirty-one are up for grabs for every soccer nation when they compete in their own respective tournament. Back in 1994, the CONCACAF region only had one automatic qualifying spot and one playoff spot. Now, there are three automatic spots and one playoff spot. The region has slowly gained these much desired berths and when they were given a playoff spot to add to their three automatic slots for the 2006 qualifying tournament, it was seen as a “back-up plan” for FIFA to keep the U.S. and Mexico in the World Cup. I remember somewhat thinking back then that it was ridiculous, there was no need for that extra spot in our “non-important” confederation. We would never need that “back-up plan.” Oops.
Fast forward seven years later and my opinion became very different, drastically different. I’m like a rich entrepreneur who thinks that food stamps are unnecessary but the second I lose my job and money, thank god for food stamps! Even after almost not qualifying in 2009, we still laughed at the idea of finishing any hex below second or even (god forbid) third place. We’ve been spoiled by dominating soccer in the region for so long and when we lose, we don’t know how to respond, as a country or as a team. The team never really needed a Plan B on the field because Plan A was fine, but throughout this year Plans B-Z were all complete failures for us. Now that everything has gone wrong for so long, we need to sit back and rethink not only our coaches and players, but our tactics and motivation. You can’t fix a leak by continuously replacing the bucket underneath it.
At this point it looks like those soccer businessman who are in charge of the FMF might stay in charge and the only real change we will more than likely see is Piojo Herrera coming in as coach (I still can’t help but see this image when I think of him) and different players once again. New players are a good thing and although I don’t think we need a new coach just yet, I believe Herrera will do a fantastic job. This is somewhat of a step in the right direction but we need to be very careful with our analysis of the system used against New Zealand. What I mean is that (no offense to New Zealand), there is a good probability that even if I were coach of the national team, there is still a decent chance that I could lead the team to victory over the All Whites. Two wins against New Zealand aren’t going to fix the overt problems that we’ve had all year and plenty of us will be quick to think that are problems are over if we beat them. Luckily though, if we are able to beat them, we will have half a year to figure out what will work for us in the World Cup. By then we will hopefully have some sort of identity of a team.
By now, we have all talked about the United States enough and I’ve had enough of the subtle racist commentary on twitter from people on both sides of the border. Yet, we still need to thank the United States, thank god for them. It’s somewhat ironic that one of the goals that saved us was scored by the same player who scored the game-winning goal for the U.S. against us in Estadio Azteca. Those last few minutes on Tuesday were truly ridiculous though, my poor cat saw me go from panicking to depressed to ecstatic, all within a window of a few minutes. I’ll just say it one more time, thank you United States. You gave me a good college education and a reason to keep watching soccer this year. It was really weird though, imagining Mexico out of the World Cup. Who would I root for? Would I even watch it? Maybe I live a very boring life but I didn’t know how to accept the fact that Mexico could have been out of the tournament. We somehow “survived” though and made it to the playoffs.
Personally, I believe our matches in the Hex were the largest bump on the road to the World Cup. We emerged disheveled, embarrassed, and yet somehow lucky to be where we are currently at. I know I am going to seriously regret this, but I honestly can’t imagine us having any trouble against New Zealand next month. I’m a bit more calm and confident and hope that the national team will feel the same.
Our friendly against Finland will be scrutinized even more as we try to weed out the exact players that we will need. It’s not an official FIFA date but I see that as a good thing because we truly need to see the Liga MX players given more playing time right now than the Europeans who have underwhelmed us recently.
We’re lucky, guys and gals. We’re lucky to be given this golden opportunity against New Zealand. In the end, all that matters is that Mexico finds a way to the World Cup and we are only two matches away.
(Not sure why, but I can really go for a Coke or Powerade (which are owned by Coca-Cola as well) right now, and while I’m at it, I might as well open a checking account with Banamex)
Unless you’re a die-hard fan of my blog, you probably didn’t notice that I didn’t have my weekly update a couple of days ago. Sometimes I just don’t have time for it but this week I just ignored it. Even now writing this article is a bit difficult. I’ve had this tab open for about a half hour but I have been distracting myself with the new Deltron 3030 album and mindless research about the new season of Downton Abbey. When I tried working on the Weekly Update on Tuesday, the irrational section of my mind took over and steered my attention toward every worst-case scenario. Every time I began to focus on our players abroad, my mind immediately leapfrogged over the games and centered in on the prospect of Mexico losing this Friday. This is what most of my thought process was like over the weekend:
"Wow, awesome goal from Gio for Villarreal! I wond-OH GOD WHAT IF HE HAS A BAD GAME NEXT WEEK."
"Hmm…Espanyol could have really used Moreno back ther-AND WE REALLY NEED TO USE HIM. DAMN YOU INURIES!"
"Man, Ochoa had a terrible gam-AND HE’S OUR BEST OPTION. PLEASE DONT LET THIS BAD GAME INFLUENCE HIS CHANCES AGAINST PANAMA."
You get the picture. It’s difficult to look back on a quiz you just took when a test that may determine your whole grade is coming up. Reading multiple articles about the national team hasn’t helped me out either. Do you remember this scene from Apollo 13? That’s what it feels like as a Mexico fan when I read people’s ideas of tactics and lineups (mine aren’t any better). Our national team is the Apollo 13 spaceship and the World Cup is Earth, but how are we going to get there!? In my frustration, I even created this pointless thread on reddit to see the worst possible lineup that Mexico could think of (Quick shout-out to Jason Marquitz from Soccer Mexicana who posted “11 Layuns” as his answer).
Making it into the World Cup isn’t just about us doing well anymore, we also have to hope that other matches end favorably for us. Cross your fingers that Costa Rica will come out strong against Honduras and that the United States finally knock out Jamaica. We are lucky though, truly lucky to be in the CONCACAF. If we were in Europe, our chances of qualifying to the World Cup would have been long gone months ago. This really is a testament to the new-found growth of our CONCACAF rivals and also the ridiculousness of a 1-5-2 team (who hasn’t won a game at home this year) that still has a chance to make it to the World Cup. Today’s game against Panama is arguably the most important (we might have a couple more important ones in November) game of the year. At this point nobody cares about how we get to the World Cup, but just that we get there.
There is no shame in becoming one of the last teams to make it into the World Cup either. If it means that we have to play two games against New Zealand, bring it on. The World Cup would still be more than half a year away afterwards! Uruguay were one of the last teams to qualify for the most recent World Cup and ended up finishing in 4th place. People forget that so much could happen during the winter and spring before the summer tournament. Maybe Blanco will sneak back on the team, I’m kidding. Although I have mentioned this before, don’t be too surprised if Jona dos Santos joins us next summer (if we qualify).
Let’s talk about the team and what will happen. The word of the week seems to be “attack.” Vucetich has said it, players have mentioned it, and critics/fans have craved it. It might be a risk for Vucetich to sacrifice a more defensive game but at this point it would be preposterous to not go all out offensive-minded with only two games left. I’m imagining that what we need to bring out will be equivalent to a “hail mary” for us.
The starting lineup will probably look something like this:
This isn’t exactly what I would choose, but I believe this is the kind of “attack-minded” starting 11 that Vucetich might utilize for the game. It’s hard to really decipher what will happen when nothing has been released to the media other than vague ideas of game plans. Which is probably exactly what I would do if I were the coach of a national team before a crucial game.
We don’t even know the names of the three players who will apparently be cut before the game as well. Update: Turns out that Luis Montes, Jonny Magallon, and Marco Fabian were cut from the squad.
I’m all about not thinking about consequences before any type of action, but it finally hit me earlier yesterday that Mexico may not make it into the World Cup. It finally dawned upon me after having to explain Mexico’s predicament to a friend, it was weird. I seldom have those moments when you literally have to stop thinking because a serious thought is sinking in, but it happened. I hope the same goes for the players on that squad. As many have mentioned before, they too have also been living in an unrealistic fantasy world where giving it 50% will still give us a chance to make it to Brazil. Ten months later and that complete obliviousness has given us a rude awakening. We’ve all been avoiding that feeling of reality for way too long and maybe it’s time to recognize it.
There’s no point in trying too kid ourselves here. We messed up during the past ten months, we messed up big time. We’ve had terrible losses, fans turning against us, drinks thrown at coaches, players refusing call-ups, it’s all been bad. Still, after almost a year of embarrassing ourselves, the most ridiculous thing is that we still have a chance. How do we even still have a chance? After almost a year of constant failures, we can still have the same outcome of a near perfect year. For far too long, we have been the Hubris National Team. We are perfect, and anything that goes wrong is a fluke, a random occurrence, a mistake. Maybe we needed all of these losses to wake us up a bit and realize that although we are very talented, there can also be talent in other countries near us as well. Maybe we have been a big fish in a little pond for far too long. Maybe this is good for us.
I personally hype up any and every Mexico game, even if it’s a friendly, but this is the real deal. This is our “hail mary,” our last second three point shot, our last chance.
This has got to work, right?
I’m lucky enough to work a full-time job that gives me most days that I request off. I’ve been able to have every and any Mexico game off for the past year but for the first time, there was no coverage today for the Mexico-Panama game. Don’t get me wrong though, I love my job, I’m a counselor at a group home. I do deal with plenty of debaucherous teenagers who refuse to listen to rules, but at the same time I get to play video games with them, cook meals, and teach them life lessons. It’s fulfilling at the very least. The fact that I’m only 24 might also help me relate to them as well.
It was still hard to accept that I couldn’t get the day off, I’m passionate about soccer, infatuated. So I came up with a game plan. I’m personally bringing plenty of pizza and soda to these kids so they can celebrate the evening with me. I’m going to expose these kids to some great soccer and turn it into a celebration. After talking to them yesterday, they all seem more than okay with it (it’s probably the pizza). It’s hard to get these kids to agree to almost anything I ask, so if I convinced them to watch this soccer game with me, Mexico can easily defeat Panama and make it into the World Cup. It just wouldn’t be a World Cup without us. I think this time, we’ve got it figured out.
Mexico 3-2 Panama