Despite poor performances, Mexico tied for Canada in Concacaf qualification. El Tri defeated practically every weaker team, if not spectacularly. Tata Martino has been criticized for poor Gold Cup, Nations League, and qualifying performances. Mexico has been excellent without being remarkable.
An ageing player pool without a clear direction contributes to poor performance. In Qatar, this team will strive to recover from multiple qualifying injuries. El Tri’s 4-3-3 record since qualifying isn’t encouraging.
Martino and Co. are under enormous pressure. Before the club plays in Doha, the Argentine manager feels like public enemy No. 1. In September, Martino allegedly resigned. Still, the federation encouraged him to remain until after the World Cup.
If Mexico advances to the knockout round for the ninth time in a group with Argentina and Poland, calmer waters may lie ahead. As the squad flies to Qatar, disgruntled fans continue to rage.
Mexico Group C Schedule (All Times Eastern)
- Poland, Nov. 22, 11:00 A.M.
- Argentina, Nov. 26, 02:00 P.M.
- Saudi Arabia, No. 30, 02:00 P.M.
Mexico Team Coach Name
- Coach Name: Gerardo “Tata” Martino, hired in January 2019
Players to Watch: Hirving “Chucky” Lozano (Forward)
Lozano’s 2018 goal against Germany was a historical moment that introduced him to the world. Lozano is Mexico’s most exciting attacker despite his injury problems the last two years at Italian club Napoli and his little effect in qualification. When his team isn’t controlling the ball, he is still a threat due to his speed and ingenuity.
Players to Watch: Edson Álvarez (Midfielder)
After four years at Ajax, the Dutch club has attracted interest from the best European clubs. The midfielder is a defensive stalwart who has recently shown some offensive promise.
Players to Watch: Guillermo Ochoa (Goalkeeper)
With his outstanding performance in the World Cup 2014 draw against the host nation, Brazil, goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa moved from being a backup to a fan favourite, ensuring that he would be the first choice for the foreseeable future. The 37-year-old has been a key cog in his team’s success in the first round of the previous two World Cups. The Mexicans in Qatar could use some more of his magic.
Breakout Candidate: Alexis Vega (Winger)
Vega, at age 24, will have a chance to show his worth in Qatar. He might start on the flank opposite of Lozano since Tecatito Corona is out for the tournament with an injury, Ral Jiménez is questionable due to his health, and Martino has omitted promising young attackers like Diego Lainez and Santiago Giménez.
Vega has been on fire recently for club and country, scoring in his past two games for El Tri and adding two goals in six qualification appearances. Vega is nimble on his feet and good at holding on to the ball under pressure. Despite his lack of speed, he can be dangerous on the break by cutting inside from the left into his more muscular foot.
Vega has a lot riding on this World Cup, with rumours circulating that many European teams, including Jiménez’s Wolves, are interested in signing him after the tournament. A successful showing on the international scene may help him earn a transfer to one of the world’s top leagues.