Despite using three managers and getting only two wins during the final round of CONCACAF qualifying, the 2014 World Cup is still within Mexico’s reach.
Thanks to a United States win against Panama, Mexico qualified for a two-legged playoff against New Zealand, with the winner bound for Brazil.
The only match El Tri has to get its affairs straight takes place Wednesday when Mexico and their fourth manager in 2013, Miguel Herrera, faces Finland in a friendly at San Diego’s Qualcomm Stadium.
The match pits two sides composed totally of domestic-based players, partly because the match is not being played on a FIFA match date. In addition to scheduling conflicts, Finland has little motivation to bring its top squad with qualification for the 2016 European Championships the next important matches the team will face.
Herrera has called in 10 players from the Club America side he previously steered, while his opposite number Mixu Paatelainen counters with 10 players from the Finnish champions, HJK.
Among the call-ups in Herrera’s first match are America’s Raul Jiminez, whose stunning bicycle kick gave Mexico a victory against Panama in the penultimate qualifier, Maza Rodriguez and Miguel Layun. Herrera announced his starting lineup Tuesday afternoon and seven starters play for his club.
Much of the discussion in the prematch buildup has centered around naturalized players. Herrera brought in 37-year-old Sinha, naturalized from Brazil, for an El Tri return after Lucas Lobos, originally from Argentina, had to pull out of the team. The Mexican federation was hoping Rubens Sambueza would be available for selection, but FIFA has advised that the recently naturalized Sambueza is not eligible to play for El Tri thanks to two cameos for Argentina’s U-17 side in 2001 before the one-time switch rule went into effect.
Mexico should have the upper hand, but a victory alone won’t satisfy the El Tri faithful. Herrera and his team will have to show some level of cohesion to inspire any confidence that an ostensibly more talented team will be able to beat New Zealand and qualify for the World Cup.