México: B-Side KicksBy: Juan Mesa
Mexico has been a special guest to the Copa América since 1993, reaching two finals and being eliminated only once in the first round. The closeness to CONCACAF’s Gold Cup—to be played in July with the champion earning the right to play in the Confederation’s Cup—forced coach Miguel Herrera to call a team who might not have the most known faces of Mexican soccer but is still suitable for the tournament.
BIGGEST STRENGTH: The fight for points is guaranteed, as El Tri regularly finds inspiration when playing against its southern rivals (instead of the usual CONCACAF suspects), while the new players will not waste their opportunity to shine and make it to the A team. México’s B side is also a perfect mix of experienced players like legendary Rafa Márquez and Luis Montes (who missed the World Cup because of an injury) with new stars like Atlético de Madrid’s Raúl Jiménez and FC Twente Jesús “Tecatito” Corona.
BIGGEST WEAKNESS: When this version of El Tri debuts in Chile, they’ll have had just a few weeks of being together to adapt to Miguel Herrera’s system. The team is competent, but in reality it’s a bit of an experiment to have everybody on the same page for the upcoming World Cup qualification process.
COPA AMÉRICA CHANCES: Mexico is in Group A, along with host team Chile. This means Ecuador and Bolivia will be the direct rivals in the fight for a spot on the second round. The team has the quality to accomplish that mission, but it would be surprising to see them keep advancing in the tournament once they start facing tougher rivals.
FUN FACT YOU NEED TO KNOW: Miguel Herrera was part of the México’s roster that played in Ecuador 1993. He was a wild right back with a long mullet. Although he lost his spot in the starting lineup after the group stage, “El Piojo” was one of the national heroes after Mexico reached the final that Mexico lost 2-1 against Argentina. Still, thousands received the players back in Mexico City—almost as if they had won the World Cup.
IF THEY WERE A MOVIE, IT WOULD BE: Good Will Hunting: these are B-guys looking for A-Team talents.