A fan of El Tri's sets the stage for his beloved México.
The words "Mexican" and "primer" conjure up the color grey, due to my people's unusual ability to make oxidized junk come to life. Here however, they are joined to present a preview of the squad which will be representing my fatherland. Contrary to popular opinion, this guy does not represent my fatherland,
Like most normal Mexicans, I have eagerly awaited what will transpire less than 24 hours from now in South Africa: the opening match between host South Africa and my beloved Tri. My thoughts on the squad, after the jump.
What are México's chances in this World Cup? Ask 10 Mexicans and you will get 10 different responses ranging from the engagingly naive, "this is our year, our time, our Cup to lose" to the more reserved "they'll struggle in the group stage but they'll make it to the Round of 16." It is rare to hear a Mexican say that they won't make it past the group stage.
I think they'll make it out of group and into the knockout stage. My reasons have more to do with their young players who have shown that they are not cowed by the big stage.
Up front, 21 year-old strikers Carlos Vela (Arsenal) and Giovani dos Santos (Tottenham Hotspur) have already shown that they can cause opposing defenses a great deal of trouble. In recent friendlies against traditional powers, England and Italy, these two showed that they too can run past and run circles around world-class opposition.
Waiting in the wings is recent Manchester United acquisition 22-year- old Javier Hernandez, who has shown flashes of brilliance, not to mention an unreal and thereore unMexican vertical, leading up to the World Cup. The only concern up front for México is a true "9", that is, someone who finds a way to put the ball in the goal. Vela and dos Santos can create but neither has shown that true killer instinct that characterizes world-class finishers. Hernandez has that potential but needs more seasoning.
Patrolling the back is 22-year-old revelation Efrain Juarez. I've watched him since last year's Gold Cup and this guy never seems to stop running. His pace is the same at the opening whistle as it is the final whistle. He gave the English and Italians fits as he effortlessly ran up and down the pitch. Most of the push forward begins with him making a run up to the front to feed playmakers dos Santos and Vela, or himself weaseling his way into the penalty area to run past some gassed defender.
Anchoring this youth movement is a solid group of vets led by Rafa Márquez (Barcelona), Carlos Salcido (PSV Eindhoven) and Gerardo Torrado (Cruz Azul). Not to mention living legend Cuauhtémoc Blanco, who through sheer chicanery might be good for a score or two.
On to the obstacles that could keep El Tri from escaping the group stage:
As a people, us Mexicans are not very tall (there are exceptions like former UT foil Eduardo Najera) and the guys on El Tri are no exception.
Thus when there is a corner kick or a free kick that is going to be launched into the penalty area for a header, my countrymen are at a severe disadvantage. Yeah, one of México's defenders, Francisco Rodriguez is 6'3" but what good is that when the opponent has 3 or 4 of those guys?
This was laid bare for all to see against the English who, taking advantage of their height advantage, scored twice off of 2 corner kicks in the first half. English striker, 6'8" Peter Crouch, who scored one goal and assisted on the other, looked like a Wookie at an Ewok family reunion.
Bad Coaching Decisions
Speaking of Ewoks, there's the man whom Mexican coach Javier Aguirre has seemingly and inexplicably pegged the starter at keeper, the man who may single-handedly keep my beloved Tri from going anywhere in South Africa, Óscar Pérez.
Pérez is a whopping 5'7" (with cleats and standing on the ball) and showed every facet of his vertical ineptitude against England. It was so inglorious that one of the British fish wraps called him a "midget". What makes Pérez' addition to the starting lineup not to mention the friggin' team is that México has a bonafide superstar at goalie, Memo Ochoa waiting in the wings.
Ochoa is 6', a first in the history of Mexican keepers, young and has got some ups so a whole nation is befuddled at the prospect of this man sitting on the bench while a "midget" mans the posts.
You hear that Mr. Anderson? That's the sound of inevitability...
Yes I know that in the World Cup, past performance has no effect on future performance since we're dealing with different players across different eras. HowEVAH, México has shown an amazing ability to play the same record at every World Cup they participate in. Sure in '70 and '86 when they were the hosts they got further than they have ever gotten but their inevitable demise was only delayed by one round.
I won't run through what has transpired before the eyes of my generation of Mexicans because I have already done so here in an almost eponymous post.
Thus, I shall enjoy watching El Tri get out of the first round only to get eliminated by giving a world-power all they can handle before succumbing to historical inevitability.