Mexico's 23-man roster for the 2014 World Cup shows a good mix of aging veterans, players in their prime and young talent.
GUADALAJARA, Mexico – The World Cup for Mexico starts now.
Miguel Herrera announced his squad on Friday, with few real surprises among the 23 names, partly due to the lists that filtered through to the domestic press during the week, but also because the core of the coach’s thinking could be deducted from previous friendlies.
The overriding take from the squad list is that there is a healthy balance.
Older experienced heads like Carlos Salcido, Jesus Corona, Francisco Rodriguez and Rafa Marquez are mixed in with young talents such as Alan Pulido, Diego Reyes, Isaac Brizuela and Raul Jimenez. In between are a group of players either in or coming into their prime: Hector Moreno, Javier Hernandez, Giovani dos Santos, Andres Guardado, Miguel Layun and Oribe Peralta.
The average age of the 23 players is 27 years.
The balance in the squad is also positive in terms of positions.
Key here is Salcido, who can feature as a center back – as he did under Ricardo La Volpe in 2006 – in front of the defense as a holding midfielder – like he has at Tigres – or as a left wing back, although there would be questions about his pace and ability to get up and down the wing for 90 minutes at 34 years old.
The selection of the former Chivas player means Herrera has been able to select five center forwards, with Peralta, Hernandez, Dos Santos, Pulido and Jimenez all with a realistic shot of starting against Cameroon on Friday the 13th (of June) in Natal.
That is a substantial amount of firepower, but there was no last minute shock inclusion of Real Sociedad star Carlos Vela, who decided earlier this year that he didn’t want to be included in the squad.
“We are sorry that he hasn’t wanted to participate,” said Herrera in Friday’s press conference in Mexico City. “He made his decision.”
A total of 16 of Mexico’s 23 players are based domestically, but fans could breath a sigh of relief that the popular figures of Ochoa and Dos Santos were in the squad, with hints that their positions were by no means guaranteed and Herrera famously not including any foreign-based players in the intercontinental playoff against New Zealand last year.
Villarreal’s Javier Aquino will be bitterly disappointed that his good season in Spain wasn’t enough to get him in ahead of Brizuela and Marco Fabian, while Toluca’s Miguel Ponce can feel partially aggrieved that his recent form didn’t sneak him in past Bayer Leverkusen’s Andres Guardado, who has been patchy at best recently.
There must be some worry that none of Mexico’s midfield can boast previous World Cup experience, while of the 12 midfielders and strikers in the squad, only Hernandez and Dos Santos have played at the game’s pinnacle event.
There will also be questions asked about the form of Guardado, Rodriguez, Layun, Brizuela and Carlos Pena coming into the camp – which will begin May 12 and be at full strength by May 25 – but Herrera was adamant that it won’t be held against them and each player can challenge for a starting spot.
“Everyone will begin from zero,” he said.
The tension and pressure of selecting the 23 players is now over. The real work of crafting a team capable of producing a major shock and reaching the quarterfinals in Brazil is on.
Mexico’s friendlies ahead of Brazil
Israel – Estadio Azteca, Mexico City – May 28
Ecuador – AT&T Stadium, Arlington, TX – May 31
Bosnia-Herzegovina – Soldier Field, Chicago, IL – June 3
Portugal – Gillette Stadium, Foxborough, MA – June 6