ROAD TO KOREA/JAPAN
|Mexico progressed quite comfortably from
the CONCACAF semifinal groupstage, but had to wait until the last match of the final group
to secure a place in the World Cup having struggled more than expected against
less glamorous teams.
here for details
|Participations: (11) 1930, 1950,
1954, 1958, 1962, 1966, 1970, 1978, 1986, 1994 and 1998
|Best placing: Quarterfinal 1970 and 1986
|Topscorer: Luis Hernandez,
detailed history information
|Cuauhtemoc Blanco is a very skillful
and unpredictable player who can turn a game within 5 seconds of magic. He threatened
to quit the national team, but is now back again to sparkle this rather bleak Mexican
VERDICT: First round exit
|Mexico seem to lose the grip as leading
nation in the Concacaf and had all sorts of problems qualifying. Here they will be grouped
with teams who have all impressed more and we think Mexico will go home after
CONCACAF POWERHOUSE POSSIBLY ON THE DECLINE
by Peter Goldstein
Mexico owes its qualification to one man: coach Javier Aguirre. "El Vasco"
(he's of Basque descent) took over a listless, dispirited team, pretty much
left for dead in the CONCACAF Hexagonal. He kicked out famous stars like
Luis Hernandez and Jorge Campos, brought in a whole new set of players,
remolded the team in his own gritty image, and brought the Tricolores
scratching and scrapping back, winning four and drawing one, clinching the
region's last spot on the final day. It wasn't pretty, but it was something
But Mexican fans are never satisfied, and now he faces the hard part: taking
a modestly talented team into the second round, or farther, at Korea/Japan.
The good news: striker Cuauhtemoc Blanco, who scored the key goals in the
qualifiers, then threatened to boycott the team, is back in the fold. Blanco
is the one magic man on the roster: unorthodox in looks, in temperament, in
style, he can create goals from nowhere and score them from anywhere.
(Forget Owen, forget Bergkamp: Blanco's flying horizontal far-post
left-footed strike against Belgium was the most spectacular goal of France
There are two other good strikers in the pool. Francisco Palencia is agile,
tireless, and versatile: he can score, create, and play effective defense
from the front. Jared Borgetti, as befits his ancestry, plays more Italian
than Mexican: relatively slow, but stylish and elegant, he can score with
both feet and is outstanding in the air. Whoever partners Blanco, it'll be a
But strikers can't do much without service; the midfield has plenty of
toughness, but little imagination. And now for the bad news: the most
creative midfielder on the team, Jesus Arellano, who plays right wingback in
the 3-5-2, will have to serve a red-card suspension for the first two games.
He's small, clever, with great pace and good ball skills, but unless the
suspension is lifted, he won't see much action. Javier Saavedra, a tireless
two-way player, is one possible replacement. A controversial choice would be
Gabriel Caballero, a naturalized Argentine who plays in the Mexican First
Division. He's got the skills, and is a natural right-sided player, but many
in Mexico oppose naturalized players on principle. On the left side is Ramon
Morales, not bad; he's mobile, marks well, and shows occasional inspiration
But that still leaves the center lacking. Aguirre has brought back Alberto
Garcia Aspe, leader of the 1994 team, to play in the middle: he's still got
the cultured left foot, but can't create like he used to, and isn't all that
attack-minded by nature. Johan Rodriguez has shown pace and attacking power
as an inside right, although he too will have to miss a game due to a red
card. Sigifredo Mercado, a spirited, technically sound veteran who can play
anywhere in midfield, will probably see some time. Another possibility is
Alberto Rodriguez, a battler in the Aguirre mold; he's usually listed as a
defender, but has the tools to play midfield as well. Gerardo Torrado of
Sevilla is a clear first choice at defensive midfield: he's a very hard
tackler, erratic in positioning at times.
The back three is pretty solid. Top of the class is young Rafael Marquez of
Monaco: he's physical but also fast enough to play on the wing and move up
in attack, and he reads the game instinctively. He can play on either side.
In the middle the probable choice is Manuel Vidrio, big and tough, not
particularly quick but hard to get by. There are several candidates for the
third spot. Melvin Brown is fast and skilled, probably the most talented,
best on the right side. Rafael Garcia is a solid all-rounder whose stock has
risen steadily. Heriberto Morales isn't that strong technically, but he's
tough and has pace. Grand old man Claudio "The Emperor" Suarez, the world
leader in caps (over 170!), suffered a leg fracture in training and will
miss the tournament.
Aguirre surprised everyone by recalling keeper Jorge Campos for a friendly
against the USA, but at most he'll be a bench player. Oscar Perez, very much
the man in form, has claimed the spot. He's a less flamboyant version of
Campos: smallish but with great reflexes, and able to come off his line with
Mexican football may be in for a dry spell: the stars of the previous
generation are at the end of their careers, and the youth system hasn't been
particularly productive of late. The 2002 edition of the "Tri" certainly
won't win any style points. But they don't give an inch, and Aguirre knows
how to make them play. On paper they look as if they're set for an early
exit, but even in a tough group with Italy and Croatia, don't bet against El
A BRIEF WORLD CUP HISTORY
by Jan Alsos
Mexico can boast eleven World Cup finals appearances. Itís
matched only by four other countries, but despite their high number of participations they can
hardly be called a powerhouse in World Cup history. They have experienced far more downs
than ups and critics who say Mexico have often got an easy passage to the World Cup have
plenty of good arguments. Mexico took part in the very first finals in Uruguay 1930, but
crashed out with three straight defeats. It was a pattern they would follow for many years to
They didnít bother to travel to any of the remaining pre-war tournaments in Europe, but
showed up in Brazil in 1950 only to get thrashed again. Zero points became routine and
history repeated itself in 1954 and also four years later in Sweden - for the first game
anyway. Mexico managed a draw against Wales and secured their first ever point which was
some consolation even if another heavy defeat followed in the third preliminary game against
A sensational win over coming finalists Czechoslovakia in 1962 ended the bad run of thirteen
winless games, but it wasnít enough to progress because Spain and Brazil had already beaten
Mexico before that match. Mexico were present in England 1966 and came away with credit
in this tournament drawing France and Uruguay, the latter a 0-0 game which meant legendary
goalkeeper - and first man with five tournaments - Antonio Carbajal managed to keep his
first and only clean sheet in a World Cup match in his last appearance.
Mexico hosted the World Cup in 1970 and impressed in the first round beating Belgium and
El Salvador which set them up against Italy in the quarterfinal. An ugly 4-1 defeat against an
Italy side that had barely scored in the tournament put the Mexican performance in a bad
light. It took eight more years until they qualified again and in Argentina they were back at
their old habbits with zero points after the first round. Further eight years later in 1986,
Mexico hosted the World Cup again and things started well. Mexico topped their group and
beat Bulgaria in the second round before West Germany became too much to handle in the
eventual quarterfinal penalty shoot-out. The Mexicans had a mental black-out and only
managed to put one ball behind Schumacher.
Mexico were banned for the 1990 World Cup because of fielding overaged players in an
U20-tournament, but they were back for the 1994 World Cup in the US where they lost the
opening game to Norway, but fought back with a win against Ireland and a draw against Italy
to top the tightest World Cup group in history with all teams on equal points, but Mexico with
most goals scored. Bulgaria were opponents in the second round, but those penalties just
wouldnít go in. Yet again Mexico missed all but one. A last minute equalizer against Holland
in the final groupmatch in 1998 gave Mexico a much celebrated second round place against
Germany, but Klinsmann and Bierhoff put the Germans through, although Mexico performed
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