Goalkeepers: Jesus Corona (Cruz Azul), Alfredo Talavera (Toluca), Guillermo Ochoa (AC Ajaccio);
Defenders: Paul Aguilar, Miguel Layun (both Club America), Hector Moreno (Espanyol), Diego Reyes (Porto), Francisco Rodriguez (Club America), Rafael Marquez (Leon), Carlos Salcido (Tigres);
Midfielders: Hector Herrera (Porto), Jose Juan Vazquez (Leon), Carlos Pena (Leon), Isaac Brizuela (Toluca), Luis Montes (Leon), Marco Fabian (Cruz Azul), Andres Guardado (Bayer Leverkusen);
Forwards: Oribe Peralta (Santos Laguna), Javier Hernandez (Manchester United), Raul Jimenez (Club America), Alan Pulido (Tigres), Giovani dos Santos (Villarreal).
There can’t be many, if any, nations at this summer's World Cup who have ridden over more bumps than Mexico to get there. Mexico worked their way through three coaches in a turbulent six-week period earlier this year, before the current coach, Miguel Herrera, oversaw a rout against New Zealand in the play-off rounds. Things haven’t really eased up since, as Mexico find themselves in a tough group alongside hosts Brazil and Croatia, who are threatening to become a hipster favourite this summer (I bought a Croatia shirt three years ago, top hipster marks for me).
Herrera, however, is providing cause for cautious optimism. Mexico are unbeaten in six games under his management, though they are yet to face any ‘world class’ opposition – but hey, there are no easy games in international football, right? As you’ll notice from the squad list, Herrera is following the trend of his counterparts in the Americas by looking closer to home for players – Mexico fielded a team comprised solely of Liga MX players in their play-off. I’m no expert on the Mexican league, but one of the players who is familiar to us is Rafael Marquez, who has been recalled to the national team. Marquez will be central in Mexico’s three-man defence flanked by wing backs hoping to provide width. The midfield is a bit of an unknown, not just because of their domestic status, but because barring Andres Guardado, they share less than 50 caps between them. More worrying still, Juan Carlos Medina was ruled out of the tournament this week, meaning Herrera will be now be looking for alternative options to anchor his midfield. Options include his namesake, Hector Herrera, who was on Manchester United’s radar a year or so back, and Jose Vasquez, who plays behind Carlos Pena and Luis Montes for his club side Leon. If they impress, we may be associating that name with more than just locally sourced fast food.
Javier Hernandez is of course Mexico’s most well known player – and also Herrera’s most pressing problem ahead of the summer. Chicharito has been in patchy form for club and country this past year (the Moyes effect is strong in this one), but considering Carlos Vela’s continued international industrial action (he’s on strike), you’d have thought Hernandez’s spot was safe. But seven goals in 10 games from Mexico during qualification, and none from Hernandez, are a bit of a problem. Enter Oribe Peralta, the 30 year old who has scored 12 times for Mexico this season, and also tormented group mates Brazil when Mexico won Olympic gold back in 2012. Another option could be to play both, with Mexico’s starman Gio Dos Santos behind them – but whether Herrera is feeling so ambitious remains to be seen.
So Mexico go into this World Cup as a bit of an unknown, but expectation for El Tri will be as high as ever. Herrera has promised they’ll make it out of the group, so no pressure then.
As mentioned above, Mexico's star is Giovani Dos Santos. A player who has followed the well-trodden path of a Latino wonderkind who crossed the Atlantic Ocean to flatter to deceive at a European giant, he has remained impressive for Mexico and has found form at Villarreal this season.
Group stage. Mexico have never progressed further than the second round on foreign turf. Brazil might not be as far away as South Africa or Europe, but I don’t see that changing here; because despite Herrera’s promises, I don’t see them beating the host or a Croatia team boasting Modric and Rakitic in midfield.