Mexico will have to wait for 2018 as it searches for a fifth game, and some veteran players will require replacements.
But for all the funny memes and videos regarding referee Pedro Proenca deciding to hand the Netherland’s Arjen Robben a contentious penalty, the history books will say the European side won 2-1 and El Tri’s dream of a quarterfinal at Brazil 2014 ended in Fortaleza. The chance for redemption is four long years away at Russia 2018.
An early projection of the how the Mexico squad could look gives reason for hope about that “fifth game,” largely because the spine of the team doesn’t look too different from Brazil 2014 and those same players will have had four more years experience under their belts, whilst developing together. At least that is the theory, if there is some consistency.
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It also means the much-lauded players coming through a youth program that has grown from strength to strength over the last 10 years will have a difficult task to replace those already in the team. That list includes the likes of Carlos Fierro, Marco Bueno, Ulises Davila, Jonathan Espericueta, Arturo Gonzalez, Jesus Corona and Antonio Briseno, who haven’t yet broken fully out, but could do so in a major way in the near future. The generational dynamic in the competition for places promises to be fascinating.
The selection choices here are based on Miguel Herrera’s 5-3-2 formation and assume that he will be one of the few Mexico coaches in history to stay in charge for a full four-year cycle.
Guillermo Ochoa, Alfredo Talavera, William Yarbrough
Ochoa is very much Mexico’s number one now and will have the chance to go on and challenge Jorge Campos and Antonio Carbajal as El Tri’s greatest ever ‘keeper.
Beneath him, there is no reason to think Talavera won’t be still around and in form in four years, while Cruz Azul’s Jesus Corona could be out of the picture at 37 years old.
Behind them, Yarbrough – born in Mexico to Texan parents and a citizen of both the US and Mexico – is the standout young ‘keeper in the Liga MX, having already won two league titles and experienced the Copa Libertadores. A big presence in net, Yarbrough is set to attract attention from the federation on either side of the border.
Diego Reyes, Hiram Mier, Hector Moreno (Captain), Miguel Herrera, Nestor Araujo, Miguel Layun, Rodolfo Pizarro, Javier Abella.
A starting center back line of Mier on the right, Reyes in the center and Moreno on the left should be an exceptionally good one moving forward, in terms of quality and balance.
Herrera and Araujo seem to be in line behind them, but it is quite open at present, with Hugo Ayala also in with a shout.
In the wing back positions, Pachuca’s Pizarro is very talented, already capped and the natural choice to challenge Paul Aguilar for the position.
Santos Laguna’s Abella on the other side is another youngster that looks destined for big things and having Andres Guardado and Miguel Layun in the squad means there will be plenty of competition for the left wing back spot.
Jose Juan Vazquez, Alonso Escoboza, Jurgen Damm, Marco Fabian, Carlos Pena, Andres Guardado, Hector Herrera.
Vazquez’s performance was the most gratifying surprise for Mexico in Brazil and he is in position to capitalize moving forward. In this squad, if he is out injured, Hector Herrera or Diego Reyes could fill in there, but it’d be ideal if Jesus Zavala, Jorge Enriquez or Jose Carlos Van Rankin found some consistent form. Club Tijuana’s midfielder warrior Javier Guemez – who has a bit of Gennaro Gatuso about him - also shouldn’t be discounted.
Ahead of them, Herrera is key. He could be playing for a European giant by the time the next World Cup swings around if he continues as he has and could well be a world star.
Alongside, Guardado worked well in Brazil, although any of the others could step up. Escoboza is left –footed and, like Damm, developing rapidly, while Pena and Fabian will be at their peaks. Isaac Brizuela and Javier Aquino are other strong contenders.
Javier Hernandez, Alan Pulido, Giovani Dos Santos, Raul Jimenez, Carlos Vela.
By 2018, ‘Chicharito; Hernandez will be Mexico’s highest-ever goal-score and a veteran at 30. Will Russia 2018 will be the first World Cup at which he is a starter?
The competition is strong, with Pulido and Jimenez likely to be in Europe by then and Dos Santos at the peak of his powers.
Then there is Vela. Who knows how the saga will turn out? It is entirely possible that he never returns to the national team, or he could commit tomorrow.
What Brazil 2014 did make clear is that Mexico could do with a player of Vela’s ability on the field to create something out of nothing. But whether Herrera needs Vela’s presence off the field in what was, in the end, a harmonious squad is a different question altogether.