Mexico's head coach will send out his usual attacking system against New Zealand, utilizing a base of players who know his style well.
With Mexico coach Miguel Herrera, what you see is what you get. And that isn’t likely to change as El Tri tries to avoid missing out on its first World Cup in 24 years.
Herrera has practically already named the team that will face New Zealand in the Estadio Azteca on Wednesday, after his side overcame Mexican second division outfit Lobos BUAP 4-0 on Saturday in the final friendly before the World Cup playoff.
“The goalkeeper and the strikers are the only doubts,” said Herrera in the press conference after the game.
In other words, should it be Jesus Corona or Moises Munoz in goal, and should it be Raul Jimenez or Aldo de Nigris to partner Oribe Peralta upfront?
Based on the team Herrera started against Lobos BUAP – which was exactly the same as against Finland last month – the starting XI could look like this: Munoz, Francisco “Maza” Rodriguez, Rafael Marquez, Juan Carlos Valenzuela, Paul Aguilar, Miguel Layun, Juan Carlos Medina, Luis Montes, Carlos Pena, Peralta, De Nigris.
Even if De Nigris is swapped with Jimenez and Munoz is dropped for Corona, nothing changes in Herrera’s overall strategy.
Herrera is very much from the Ricardo La Volpe school of coaching, with the former playing under the influential Argentine for four years at Atlante between 1991 and 1995.
La Volpe is best known outside the American continental for his role guiding Mexico to the 2006 World Cup, where his attacking brand of football won eulogies from a certain Pep Guardiola, who was about to launch himself into a highly successful coaching career.
Herrera has never hidden his Lavolpista intentions as a coach and there will be similarities in style with the Mexico side in the Germany tournament seven years ago.
There’ll be a set 5-3-2 formation when Mexico doesn’t have the ball, which quickly switches to a 3-5-2 when El Tri has possession, in order to give options and create more chances, especially against teams that are likely to sit back.
The idea is to swarm the opposition, pressure high up the field and win it back before there is a chance for the other team to create chances. It is an outgoing, attacking outlook and seeks domination of possession in order to overwhelm the opposition.
The nuances of the system help to explain why Herrera didn’t go for the Europe-based players and instead went for a base of Club America players. His tactics rely on high-energy play, forging a good understanding between the different zones, and not gifting the ball to the opposition.
Defending is obviously very different with three center backs, the positional sense of the wing backs is crucial and it is important for the trio of central midfielders to get the balance right.
It’s not difficult to decipher that Herrera is thinking that it is better go with the players who know the system inside out, rather than trying to get Espanyol center back Hector Moreno or Porto’s Hector Herrera to adapt, for example.
The complications of employing the 5-3-2 also help explain why La Volpe has failed in recent jobs at Banfield, Costa Rica and Atlante, and why Herrera struggled at Veracruz and later Estudiantes Tecos.
It takes time, patience and the will of the players to get right. Mexico has neither time nor patience at present, but it at least has a base of players that know exactly what Herrera demands.