Mexico didn't get its long-awaited fifth game, but here are five El Tri players who impressed at the World Cup.
However, Miguel Herrera isn’t letting up. He continues to appear on TV chat shows and sports programs in a drive that has all the main ingredients of a political campaign. Everything points to him continuing as Mexico coach and he’s making sure he is remaining at the forefront of people’s thoughts.
In recent columns, I’ve touched base on Mexico players rumored to be on the move following Brazil 2014, whether Herrera is the right person to take El Tri forward and had a peek at what a Russia 2018 squad could look like four years away from the event.
To wrap up the dissection of Mexico’s performance at Brazil 2014, here’s a look at the five players that impressed most for El Tri in Brazil.
1. Hector Herrera
It didn’t need Rio Ferdinand to point out what everyone saw in front of their own eyes during Mexico’s World Cup games: Herrera was a cut above for El Tri.
The 24-year-old’s passing, close control, pressing, work rate, vision and just sheer class on the ball made him Mexico’s best player. He was unlucky not to score and has alerted both Mexico fans and Europe’s elite clubs that he is a player to keep a firm eye on.
There shouldn’t be a rush for Herrera, however. There have been reports of interest from Liverpool and Valencia, but Herrera should instead bide his time at Porto and become a central focus of the team. After all, the Portuguese club doesn’t exactly have a bad record at taking players from Latin America, developing them into world-beaters and then selling them on.
2. Guillermo Ochoa
“San Memo” was the headline-grabber for Mexico – along with coach Herrera – and deservedly so. Perhaps it shouldn’t have been a surprise considering some of his performances for Ajaccio against Ligue 1 giants in his three years at the club.
Ochoa’s performance against Brazil was one of the best of any individual in a Brazil 2014 match. The former America ‘keeper proved he is the real deal and is now ready to take that next step at club level. Mexico’s goal is set to be well-guarded moving towards Russia 2018.
3. Jose Juan “Gallito” Vazquez
The revelation for Mexico. Vazquez was a dynamo in the center of the field, solving problems when they came up defensively and passing positively and with precision. It wasn’t just any old midfield opposition he was up against, either. Vazquez nulled Croatia’s threat of Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic into submission and was equally tenacious against Cameroon and Brazil.
Vazquez was a vital part of Leon’s two recent Liga MX championships and it shouldn’t necessarily be a surprise he did so well, even if it undoubtedly feels like one. Perhaps Carlos “Gullit” Pena and Luis Montes garnering more headlines for La Fiera with their goals and assists has overshadowed Vazquez’s importance. This summer, however, the diminutive midfielder that does the dirty work so well turned the tables.
4. Hector Moreno
Was it a coincidence that the only time Mexico’s defense started to look really shaky was after Moreno was stretchered off at halftime against the Netherlands? There were clearly other factors at play, but when Moreno exited the field, so did El Tri’s best defender at a most inappropriate time. He had surely earned the blind confidence of teammates by then.
The 26-year-old Espanyol player used Brazil 2014 to prove he is capable and ready to move to a club fighting for Champions League spot, at least when he gets back playing in six months. Moreno was key in subduing Samuel Eto’o, Mario Mandzukic and Robin van Persie, although he did have able help from Rafa Marquez and Francisco “Maza” Rodriguez at the back.
A model of consistency and level-headedness on and off the field, Moreno must be in line for the captaincy when he returns.
5. Andres Guardado
When Guardado isn’t on form, you are left scratching your head as to what he is. A winger? Left wing back? Left back? Central midfielder?
But when he plays with the verve and intensity he did at the World Cup, you realize that the lack of identity Guardado has suffered from over the last year is also partially down to the fact he can do so much so well.
Guardado’s technical ability shone through in Mexico’s four matches, as did his range of passing, tracking back, goalscoring and leadership.
Herrera must take a lot of credit for sticking with Guardado and handing him the left central midfield role that helped him become one of Mexico’s best players at the tournament.
Special mentions: Rodriguez, Marquez, Paul Aguilar, Giovani Dos Santos.