Mexico is still its worst enemy. Coach Gerardo Martino now faces a crucial game against Panama in Round 11 at the Concacaf World Cup qualifier tournament.
El Tri is now one point ahead Panama in the automatic World Cup berths. Mexico would lose Wednesday night to Mexico, which would leave El Tri in fourth place. El Tri would still be able to travel to Qatar via inter-confederation playoffs, but it would be embarrassing for a team that was in FIFA’s Top 10 just last summer.
Coach Martino was told by that he must beat Panama, or he’ll go. On Sunday, supporters at the Estado Azteca called for Martino’s head. In fact, officials from the national federation have already started talks with Miguel Herrera, the Tigres coach, to discuss the possibility of hiring a new manager in the three final qualifying rounds in March.
After Sunday’s scoreless draw at home against Costa Rica, “Tata”, who claimed he made mistakes in his line-up selections, and didn’t make the adjustments necessary in the second period, accepted the blame.
Mexico’s line-up selection is crucial
Martino has been under criticism since the Nations League final loss on June 7, when Team USA beat El Tri. El Tri was again defeated by the U.S. two months later in the Gold Cup Final, even though the Americans used a second-choice team.
In November, Mexico lost to Canada and the United States in back-to-back qualifying matches. The outlook for the future has not improved. El Tri was flat in Jamaica last week, and required two late goals to prevent a loss. Then followed with a ho-hum performance against Costa Rica.
El Tri’s qualifying campaign has been lacking in spark, with not one memorable moment. Yet “Tata”, a veteran who is not performing well, has continued to support them.
Martino chose to continue to rely on his Class of 2018, which includes some people who are either past their prime or not in good form, instead of incorporating the new talent into the lineup last summer.
Hector Herrera, a midfielder, is currently the target of fan abuse. He took to social media last week to criticize El Tri fans, effectively putting him on the spot. However, he has not been successful so far.
Herrera was the El Tri team leader that went to Russia 2018. However, since moving to Atletico Madrid in 2019, Herrera’s game has suffered greatly while he sat on the bench for Los Colchoneros.
Martino places Herrera into the El Tri lineup almost automatically, even though his playing time in La Liga is very low. He is not being paid. Herrera’s mistakes (bad passes, turnovers), and apparent lack of effort are starting to be a problem.
Herrera isn’t the only problem. Mexico has struggled to fill both fullback positions and Martino failed to find alternatives, despite the fact that there were many promising options. Luis Rodriguez and Jesus Gallardo continue to be called up to El Tri, despite their sub-par performances.
Martino failed to take into account tactical alternatives, in addition to making poor personnel decisions. El Tri opens with a 4-3-3-3 lineup that lacks playmakers in the midfield. Rogelio Funes Moi, Striker, hasn’t excelled replacing the often-injured Raul Jamesenez. However, he seldom sees any assistance from his teammates.
Mexico may be better off having a 4-1-3-2 or a 4-2-4 with an additional attacker, as Edson Alvarez is in good form. Concacaf’s competition isn’t so intense that Mexico would be at risk at the back, but Martino would need to stop relying on his older veterans.
Orbelin Pineda and Carlos Rodriguez (or Luis Romo), could be a better link-up team in the future. They’d certainly be more dangerous than the Alvarez-Herrera-Andres Guardado midfield that has been a stable of the Martino era.
Nestor Araujo (30, Defender) and Nestor Moreno (34, Defender) are solid defenders. But Olympic bronze medalists Cesar Monts (24), and Johan Vasquez (23), deserve more chances to show their worth, especially with Guillermo Ochoa, a world-class goalie.
Too little risk-taking has occurred and too little dynamic play was seen in the offensive third. It was clear against Costa Rica that Mexico was the dominant possession team (a mostly sterile 72%), but managed just 1 goal, and that was a free kick.
Mexico must show aggression and patience against Panama, a team that is capable of pulling off a spectacular upset. El Tri may need a coach change to wake up, but the team has too many talents to make it all the way to Qatar.