Confederations Cup preview: Mexico, the once and future champion?

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MEXICO 

Photo Credit: Itzel Segura / Prost Amerika

Group A

How they got here:
Mexico won the 2015 CONCACAF Gold Cup beating Jamaica 3-1 in the final. They then went on to beat the United States Men’s National Team (2013 Gold Cup champions) in the 2016 CONCACAF Cup with a score of 2-1 to qualify into the FIFA Confederations Cup.

Coach:
Juan Carlos Osorio (COL).

Schedule:
Portugal (June 18, Kazan), New Zealand (June 21, Sochi), Russia (June 24, Kazan)

Players to keep an eye on:
Forward, Javier ‘Chicharito’ Hernandez (Bayer Leverkusen, GER), forward, Carlos Vela (Real Sociedad, SPA), midfielder Jonathan Dos Santos (Villarreal, SPA), defender, Hector Moreno (AS Roma, ITA).

Outlook:
Of the eight team participating in this edition of the FIFA Confederations Cup, Mexico is the only former champion (1999 Champions) and they are the team with the most experienced team in this Confederations Cup. This will be El Tri’s sixth appearance at a Confederations Cup tournament. They have competed in every single edition with the exception of the 2003 and 2009 editions. Only Brazil (who is not competing in this edition) has more Confederations Cup participation than Mexico (seven).

Manager Juan Carlos Osorio will have plenty to prove in this tournament. He has Mexico easily coasting through the CONCACAF World Cup Qualifiers but that has not slowed down his critics. At the moment Mexico are undefeated in the first six games of the final hexagonal World Cup Qualification bracket. They sit at the top of the table with 14 points form four wins and two draws.  But the dark cloud of last summer’s Copa America Centenario disastrous 7-0 exit still looms over Osorio’s head.

The Colombian manager is criticized for his tinkering with his roster call ups and his starting lineup changes. Osorio played the same goalkeeper in back-to-back games for the first time in his tenure earlier this month when Guillermo Ochoa played against Honduras and the United States Men’s National Team during Week 5 and Week 6 of the CONCACAF World Cup Qualifiers.

The overall criticism of Osorio is that with so many constant rotation and changes; he has only been able to be successful against weaker CONCACAF sides. This Confederations Cup tournament will once again give Osorio the opportunity to prove his worth to the Mexican fans and media.

Mexico will need to rely on their European-based players in order to have any success in this tournament. Javier ‘Chicharito’ Hernandez recently broke the all-time scoring record with El Tri, netting his 47th international goal in a 2-1 loss to Croatia at the LA Memorial Colesium earlier this month. Villarreal midfielder Jonathan Dos Santos is taking full advantage of the Andres Guardado injury and establishing himself in Mexico’s midfield. He has had outstanding showings in the past few matches including the World Cup qualification matches. In defense Hector Moreno, who just a few days ago completed his transfer from PSV to AS Roma, will have to be the solid rock for Mexico. In goal… with all honesty, who knows who will be Mexico’s goalkeeper during this tournament. There is a small possibility Juan Carlos Osorio himself still doesn’t know. We could end up seeing all three goalkeepers play just like we saw a year ago at the Copa America Centenario.

The biggest set-back for Mexico coming into the tournament is losing arguably the most talented player on the squad, Jesus ‘Tecatito’ Corona. Osorio announced before the World Cup qualification match against the United States that Corona had asked to be excused from the National Team and from Confederations Cup due to personal family issues. One ESPN journalist said “Right now his family needs the man more than El Tri needs the player

 

Mexico will kickoff the competition against the most difficult group opponent, Cristiano Ronaldo and Portugal. A positive result, even a draw, would go a long way to ensuring El Tri qualify out of Group A. Mexico will then face what in theory is the weakest side, New Zealand. Mexico will be looking to head to the final group stage match against host Russia with a minimum of four points (if not all six). The match against Russia is a big mystery. No one can calculate how much home-field advantage will weigh.

If Mexico are to qualify out of Group A and head into the semifinals of the competition, they could very well have a shot at revenge against Chile who handed El Tri the embarrassing 7-0 loss at the Copa America Centenario quarterfinals last summer.  The other possible semifinal opponent is World Champions Germany.

 

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