After taking a limping El Tri and impressing on the way to a second-round exit at the hands of the Netherlands, Miguel Herrera wants to keep his job as Mexico manager.
Followers of the game all over the world were enthralled by his touchline antics, raw enthusiasm and natural instinct to interact -- and not take himself too seriously -- on social networks. Who could forget that Tom Brady photo, where he claimed to have made the quarterback’s day?
On the field, in seven months he turned Mexico around from a team low on confidence and lacking ideas. Mexicans saw a team that ran itself into the ground in Brazil, outplayed the Netherlands for large parts of the round of 16 game, drew against the host nation and defeated Croatia and Cameroon.
How many teams have impressed more than Mexico in Brazil so far? Chile, the Netherlands, Colombia and Costa Rica are the strongest contenders. There certainly aren’t many.
The over-riding public opinion is that Herrera has earned his chance to continue the job he started ahead of Brazil. It is a strong argument, but given the Mexican federation’s propensity to hire and fire managers – led by the Liga MX club owners who still, unfathomably, have a big say in such things – now would appear the time to not jump into a rapid-fire decision and analyze the longer-term picture.
Herrera has said the World Cup report will be handed into the federation in coming days, where it will be looked over and a decision will be made on his future. He’s also stated he’s in no rush.
The job description for the Mexico manager has now changed. The upcoming task contains a whole different list of requirements. It’s no longer a case of rallying the troops, qualifying past New Zealand and putting a team together as quickly as possible to show heart and attempt to reach the quarterfinal. It is now choosing and developing the most talented players of the younger generations, picking the right experienced heads to guide them along, showing patience, building a team and maintaining the intensity for four long years.
Mexico’s Olympic gold and U-17 World Cup winning generations are coming through. Just how important a time for Mexican soccer this is can’t be over-estimated and those controlling the game have to be 100 percent convinced that they have the right person in place to oversee what could potentially be a golden period.
In the final analysis of Brazil 2014, Mexico did the same as always and fell out at the round of 16 stage. It may seem harsh to even raise the question considering what Herrera has achieved since taking over, but at such a pivotal moment, this is a debate that needs to happen.
On the positive side:
1) Herrera gave both Liga MX and foreign-based players a fair chance, rejuvenating the vital Europe-based legion and got the team playing attractive football. He made decisions with his head, not his heart, as many believed he would. The atmosphere in camp shone through and Herrera is a darling of the press with his colorful language and witty sound bites.
2) As a product of Mexican soccer, he knows the system, how it works, how to deal with the unique pressures of being El Tri’s coach and get on with the job. A look at Sven Goran Eriksson’s autobiography tells you all you need to know about a manager coming in from the outside and being flummoxed by the challenges that working within the Mexican system involves.
3) Herrera has a fixed idea of how he wants to play the game and has transmitted that clearly to the players. There will be no questions hanging over the participation of players in the team like there was surrounding the position of Giovani Dos Santos under Jose Manuel “Chepo” de la Torre in qualifying. Players will have to fit Herrera’s 5-3-2 system.
On the negative side:
1) Herrera won’t challenge the status quo. There will be no talk from him about the influence Liga MX club owners have in the national team, whether the number of games played in the United States every year is a good thing and if the current Liga MX format is best for the good of the game and producing top youngsters.
2) “El Piojo” has a lack of experience outside of Mexico’s borders. The best move for Herrera’s development as a coach right now may be to take a job in Europe, gain more experience and come back to the national team at a later date. Herrera’s outlook could be described as insular, as you can deduce from his three biggest coaching influences: Alberto Guerra, Ricardo La Volpe and Enrique Meza. In the cold light of day, the cultured Louis van Gaal’s changes late on for the Netherlands wrestled the game out of Mexico’s hands. El Tri didn’t cope.
3) The media hype seems like it is on the verge of over-stepping the line at any moment. His statements about the origin of the “P***” chant, the US owing Mexico for California and accusing members of the press drawing a pig on the dressing room white-board were just about on the right side of acceptable and sometimes even very humorous. But just like when Club America lost to Leon in the Apertura 2013 final, Mexico’s exit from the World Cup brought a torrent of abuse towards the refereeing and not self-criticism for substitutions and the way Mexico sat back and invited on waves of Dutch attacks. The potential for Herrera to say the wrong thing between now and 2018 is high.