The countdown is on.
Only 25 days remain until Mexico faces Panama in the Estadio Azteca in a decisive World Cup qualifying clash. Every game a top-flight Mexican player plays from now to then will be vital, with new coach Victor Manuel Vucetich stating he wants a squad made up of in-form players.
The combination of the coaching change and the blatant need to freshen up the squad means that players who haven’t been in contention now have a shot at making that Panama game.
Here are five that haven’t played for Mexico recently and should be considered:
Rafael Marquez (Leon)
The former Barcelona player is enjoying his best form since he left the storied Spanish club. The ‘Kaiser of Michoacan’ has assumed the role of leader and captains the side with the best defensive record in the Liga MX. If experience, personality and leadership are what Vucetich wants for the Panama and Costa Rica games, the 34-year-old Marquez is the perfect package.
Negative: Age and lack of pace.
Jesus Corona (Twente)
A box of tricks who has proved against the likes of Chelsea in the Club World Cup that he relishes the big occasion. Corona already has over 50 league appearances under his belt at Monterrey – where Vucetich was his coach - and if he can get some minutes with Twente and impresses, ‘Tecatito’ – the star of Mexico’s U-20 side at the World Cup - could be extremely useful off the bench.
Negative: Can be erratic, lacks experience at international level and would come into the squad after a long journey from Europe – something he isn’t used to yet.
Juan Carlos Medina (America)
The America midfielder has been a consistent performer for the champions and one of the less-heralded players in an increasingly impressive team. Medina does plenty of donkey work in the center of the field, bringing balance to the team and offers a good range of passing to compliment his work-rate. The central midfield positions have been a reoccurring headache for the national team.
Negative: The 30-year-old has only 44 minutes of experience at the international level.
Carlos Vela (Real Sociedad)
Mexico’s best player at present and the attacking fulcrum of Real Sociedad, Vela is not the savior of El Tri, but he is a player that could significantly improve the team in the offensive third. Vucetich coming in offers a potential olive branch and a chance of reconciliation between Vela and Mexico’s soccer authorities. The player has also hinted at a possible return on social networks. The prospect of Vela, Giovani Dos Santos and Javier Hernandez in attack remains a mouthwatering one for Mexico fans.
Negative: Difficult to think of one, but would his return cause friction with other players considering his unwillingness to accept call-ups?
Oswaldo Sanchez (Santos Laguna)
Although the Santos captain will be 40 at the time of the Panama game, he has been consistent for his club and has the experience and leadership that has been missing for Mexico in 2013. Sanchez marshals his defense well, motivates and is known as a highly likeable person in the Mexican game. The caveat is that a call-up for Sanchez likely depends on Guillermo Ochoa again ruling himself out like he did for the Honduras and United States games.
Negative: Could be perceived as an act of desperation and Sanchez hasn’t played a competitive game for Mexico since 2009.