El Tri's friendly against the African champions will be an important test for several players looking to make strong impressions before Brazil.
Javier Hernandez or Oribe Peralta? Guillermo Ochoa or Jesus Corona?
Mexico’s game next month against Nigeria is going to provide some insight about those kinds of questions. The match is coach Miguel Herrera’s only chance to see El Tri in action with a full complement of both Liga MX and foreign-based players ahead of the World Cup squad announcement.
Here’s a rundown of what the 24-player squad indicates in each of the positions in Herrera’s 5-3-2 formation.
There has been a lingering feeling that Ochoa isn’t to Herrera’s liking in his style of goalkeeping, but the France-based player will get his chance to shine, with minutes a guarantee against Nigeria.
Ochoa is aiming to make his third World Cup and making the most of the opportunity against Nigeria is a key step to winning the number one shirt. The starting position is perhaps the most keenly fought of any, as Herrera admitted last week.
Alfredo Talavera has been in fine form for Toluca, but he misses out, with Moises Munoz back in alongside Corona – who is the only one of the group of four that seems guaranteed to be in Brazil, barring any late decline in form.
The match next month is absolutely vital in establishing who will feature in the back three.
Rafa Marquez is a definite, with Espanyol’s Hector Moreno also a shoe-in, but the final position will be between Francisco “Maza” Rodriguez – sent off for an act of petulance on Saturday for America, Diego Reyes, who isn’t playing for Porto’s first team, Enriquez Perez, and Juan Carlos Valenzuela.
None, as of now, are particularly convincing, with Perez inexperienced at international level and Valenzuela not in his best form.
At the wing back positions, Miguel Ponce looks to have overtaken Tigres’ Jorge Torres Nilo in the pecking order on the left, while the options on the right include Miguel Layun, who can play on either wing, and Paul Aguilar.
There’s also the possibility of seeing Andres Guardado on the left and even the in-form winger Javier Aquino being tried out in a more defensive right wing back role.
In the holding role, there is now a clear battle between Jose Juan Vazquez and Juan Carlos Medina, with Jesus Zavala and Jorge Enriquez slowly slipping off the radar.
In front, the race for the two attacking midfield spots is heating up and it will be fascinating to see against Nigeria.
Carlos Pena and Isaac Brizuela couldn’t have done more in recent months to earn a starting spot, but Porto’s Hector Herrera is also hitting some form. Luis Montes, too, has impressed on a consistent basis for Leon, but may still be a little bit behind the other three for the position.
The other player currently hammering hard on the door is Marco Fabian, who has scored four goals for high-flying Cruz Azul but was left out of the squad.
Peralta, “Chicharito” Hernandez, Alan Pulido and Giovani Dos Santos are the options Herrera has decided to call on against Nigeria, with Aldo de Nigris and Raul Jimenez missing out.
Dos Santos is a perfect fit in that role behind a central striker and will likely be an important cog under Herrera. Alongside him, Hernandez will probably start due to the fact he hasn’t featured much for Manchester United recently. Peralta is in exactly the opposite situation, with Santos Laguna involved in both the Liga MX and Copa Libertadores.
It is a big game for Hernandez with his well-documented club problems, and a goal or two would give his confidence a much-needed boost.
Jesus Corona – Cruz Azul
Moises Munoz – America
Paul Aguilar – America
Enrique Perez – Atlas
Juan Carlos Valenzuela – America
Rafael Marquez – Leon
Francisco Javier Rodriguez – America
Miguel Ponce – Toluca
Miguel Layun – America
Jose Juan Vazquez – Leon
Juan Carlos Medina – America
Isaac Brizuela – Toluca
Luis Montes – Leon
Carlos Pena – Leon
Alan Pulido – Tigres
Oribe Peralta – Santos
Hector Moreno – RCD Espanyol de Barcelona
Guillermo Ochoa – AC Ajaccio
Javier Hernandez – Manchester United FC
Giovani Dos Santos – Villarreal C.F.
Javier Aquino – Villarreal C.F.
Hector Herrera – FC Porto
Diego Reyes – FC Porto
Andres Guardado – Bayer Leverkusen