COLUMBUS, Ohio – Once a favorite to win the Hexagonal and breeze into Brazil 2014, this CONCACAF qualifying cycle has turned into a nightmare for Mexico.
Following a disastrous loss against Honduras at home on Friday night, El Tri has been forced to confront the ever-growing danger that it could miss out on next summer's World Cup. Heading into a crucial showdown with the USA at Crew Stadium Tuesday night, Mexico received backing from an unlikely source: Jurgen Klinsmann.
“I said it already in the summer, just stay calm and Mexico will get their points,” the USA manager said at a press conference Monday. “Hopefully not obviously tomorrow night. But in general they will get their points and also if things go wrong for them tomorrow night, they will still get their points.”
Through seven of 10 matches in the Hexagonal, Mexico sits precariously in fourth place, just one point ahead of Panama and with road matches against the USA and Costa Rica still to come. If El Tri were to finish fourth, safe passage through a two-leg playoff with New Zealand would be required to qualify for Brazil.
“Even if they have to go through the fourth place theoretically, they will qualify for this World Cup,” Klinsmann said, before adding even more definitely: “Mexico will go to the World Cup.”
Mexico's loss to Honduras marked the end of Jose Manuel “Chepo” de la Torre's reign as manager, as the former Chivas and Toluca boss was axed and replaced temporarily by his assistant Luis Fernando Tena.
Though Chepo's dismissal was a near-certainty after the Honduras loss, Klinsmann still offered his support for his former foe.
“I felt for Chepo, because I believe he's one of the best coaches in the entire region here,” Klinsmann said. “Chepo, he could coach in Europe no problem at all. He could coach wherever here in this region, and so there is a lot of admiration from my end.”
Chepo's temporary replacement also comes with a sterling track record, as evidenced by his stewardship of Mexico to a gold medal at last summer's Olympics.
“Fernando will do the best he can do,” Klinsmann said. “He's a very, very good coach as well.”