It will be a day of celebration at the Estadio Azteca when Mexico hosts Israel, but Miguel Herrera and his men are tasked with making sure the party lasts.Mexico's one and only World Cup preparation match in front of its home crowd in Estadio Azteca will be a festive affair, and not just because fans in Mexico City will be eager to see their team off when it faces Israel on Wednesday (9:30 p.m. ET; ESPN2, UniMas).
Legendary forward Cuauhtemoc Blanco, recently signed with Puebla at age 41, is set to start the match as the Mexican Federation celebrates the man who came to exemplify the No. 10 shirt in more than 100 matches with El Tri. Likely joining Blanco in the century club is Andres Guardado, who at 27 will become the youngest Mexican player to reach the milestone. In addition to Blanco and Parvel Pardo, Guardado's 2014 World Cup squad teammates Rafa Marquez and Carlos Salcido have also represented Mexico more than 100 times.
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"Honestly, you open your eyes and say, 'It's true. I'm going for 100 matches with the national team, a third World Cup.'" Guardado told Medio Tiempo. "It's an great experience and now I'll try to pass on what I've learned, from both the good and the bad, to the younger players."
While the number is nice, Guardado will be eager to turn the head of Miguel Herrea, who has a number of decisions to make about his Mexico roster. Guardado may be on the outside looking in if he doesn't perform well in the build-up matches.
Salcido, too, was a surprise inclusion, but now that the Mexican team is missing Juan Carlos Medina for the World Cup because of an ankle injury, there's a slight possibility the recent Chivas signing will slot into a holding midfield role. In fact, there are question marks at all positions, because of wingbacks inexperienced at the international level, the injury to Medina and a slew of attacking options.
Up top, Herrera can play just two out of quintet Javier Hernandez, Oribe Peralta, Gio dos Santos, Raul Jimenez or Alan Pulido in his 5-3-2 system.
The opposition, Israel, will play Honduras later this trip as the CONCACAF teams prepare for the World Cup. Veteran Yossi Benayoun will get in on the celebratory feeling, becoming his country's most capped player when he takes the pitch, according to coach Eli Gutman. He'll return after an absence stretching several months.
“Benayoun has played well recently and he deserves to be called up,” Gutman told the Jerusalem Post. “I’m not interested in the record. But if he is already going to break it, he deserves to do so in front of 100,000 fans at the Azteca Stadium.”
While there will be marks shattered all around, fans will likely only leave the Azteca pleased if Mexico has an auspicious start to its World Cup preparations before it heads to the United States for friendlies against Ecuador, Bosnia and Portugal.