Manuel Veth –
Mexico will travel to Russia as the most experienced FIFA Confederations Cup nation. El Tri as the national team is known in Mexico has participated in the tournament six times since 1995 and hosted the competition in 1999.
The tournament in 1999 was the first time that the tournament was called the FIFA Confederations Cup—the competition was previously called the King Fahd Cup and hosted by Saudi Arabia. The 1999 edition was the first time that FIFA organized the contest, which includes the six continental champions the host country and the world champion. Before the 2002 World Cup in South Korea and Japan, the tournament was moved to the year before the World Cup to give the host nation a chance to test run their venues before staging the World Cup.
Mexico has since only missed out on one occasion—in 2009 the United States represented the CONCACAF region—and won the tournament in 1999. Whether Mexico will be a major title challenger on this occasion remains to be seen, however.
Despite the fact that they also have to compete in the Gold Cup in July, Mexico have sent their strongest possible squad to Russia this summer. Superstars like Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez, Marco Fabian, Carlos Vela, Hector Herrera, Raul Jimenez, Hirving Lozano and Jürgen Damm are all included in the squad.
Mexico will, therefore, bring one of the more exciting teams to the tournament. The Futbolgrad Network has covered Mexico closely throughout World Cup qualifying, and El Tri have easily been the strongest side in CONCACAF in recent months.
Coached by the Colombian Juan Carlos Osorio Mexico play an attractive attacking style of football that often reflects the style played in the domestic Liga MX—while this sort of football is fun to watch Mexico has struggled to leave their mark on the World Cup stage. With a population of 120 million people Mexico’s lack of World Cup medals is somewhat surprising, and despite an Olympic gold medal in London and the 1999 Confederations Cup triumph has historically underperformed.
Some of this might be true to Mexico’s lack of proper competition in the regional CONCACAF region. Only the United States can consistently challenge Mexico in the World Cup qualification Hexagonal stage and the continental Gold Cup championship. Other countries such as Costa Rica are dependent on golden generations and while competitive at times are not consistently able to provide Mexico with the sort of competition that the country needs to become a World Cup challenging nation.
As a result, there has been some talk that CONCACAF would merge with the South American CONMEBOL confederation to create a more difficult World Cup qualification stage for all countries involved. For now, however, Mexico will have to come to terms with the fact that they are part of CONCACAF and that they need to use tournaments like the Confederations Cup to provide their squad with more significant challenges.
The tournament represents a golden opportunity for the country to win a FIFA sanctioned tournament. Furthermore, competing against the likes of Russia and Portugal in the group stage seems more enticing than facing smaller CONCACAF nations in the Gold Cup.
With this in mind, it will be interesting to see what kind of impact the 2017 FIFA Confederations Cup selection will have on Mexico’s Gold Cup squad. For now the message, however, is evident the Confederations Cup is more important for Mexico than the continental CONCACAF competition.
Mexico – Opponents
Mexico are placed in Group A together with hosts Russia, European champions Portugal and Oceania champions New Zealand. Mexico will open the tournament on June 17 against Portugal at the Arena Kazan in what will be the toughest opponent in the group. The then travel to Sochi to face New Zealand on June 21 and the match against the Kiwis, in particular, will be a must win the game if El Tri want to have a good chance to advance to the semi-finals. Three days later Mexico face Russia at the Kazan Arena. Mexico certainly have the more talented squad of the two at the moment, but Russia’s home advantage will make this match, in particular, a fifty-fifty affair. Russia have struggled in recent months under new head coach Stanislav Cherchesov but then impressed in a recent 2-0 friendly win against Hungary.
Mexico – What to Expect
Mexico’s squad should be strong enough to reach the semi-finals. Fast and talented Mexico should have an easy time beating New Zealand. The other two matches, however, will be tighter affairs. El Tri certainly can compete against the likes of Portugal and Russia. Portugal, however, have demonstrated at last summer’s European Championships that they can be a dangerous tournament team. Russia in the meantime are the host nation, and the Sbornaya is a difficult opponent to play in front of their crowd. Mexico, however, are superior to the Sbornaya regarding talent and experience. As it stands, Mexico are slight favourites over Russia to finish in the top two and advance to the semi-finals. Once there everything could be possible.
Mexico – Squad
Goalkeepers: Rodolfo Cota (Chivas), Guillermo Ochoa (Granada), Alfredo Talavera (Toluca)
Defenders: Oswaldo Alanis (Chivas), Nestor Araujo (Santos Laguna), Rafael Marquez (Atlas), Hector Moreno (PSV Eindhoven), Diego Reyes (Espanyol), Luis Reyes (Atlas), Carlos Salcedo (Fiorentina)
Midfielders: Jonathan dos Santos (Villarreal), Andres Guardado (PSV Eindhoven), Hector Herrera (FC Porto), Miguel Layun (FC Porto), Marco Fabian (Eintracht Frankfurt)
Forwards: Javier Aquino (Tigres), Jesus Manuel Corona (FC Porto), Giovani dos Santos (LA Galaxy), Javier Hernandez (Bayer Leverkusen), Raul Jimenez (Benfica), Hirving Lozano (Pachuca), Oribe Peralta (Club America) Carlos Vela (Real Sociedad)
Manuel Veth is a freelance journalist and social media editor at Bundesliga.com. He is also a holder of a Doctorate of Philosophy in History from King’s College London, and his thesis is titled: “Selling the People’s Game: Football’s transition from Communism to Capitalism in the Soviet Union and its Successor States,” which will be available in print soon. Originally from Munich, Manuel has lived in Amsterdam, Kyiv, Moscow, Tbilisi, London, and currently is located in Victoria BC, Canada. Follow Manuel on Twitter @ManuelVeth.