While many Mexico fans are feeling apprehensive about the team's chances in Russia following Friday's World Cup draw, Pavel Pardo sees an opportunity for El Tri this summer.
With a difficult group including world champion Germany and a potential game against Brazil in Mexico's path to making a fifth game at the World Cup for the first time ever on foreign soil, few analysts are picking Mexico to break through and reach the quarterfinals. But former Mexico midfielder Pardo believes it could be a special tournament for El Tri if the squad members are able to get their minds right ahead of the group stage.
"I think Mexico has a lot of potential. The most important thing for me is the mentality that you have to have in World Cups. It’s another level," Pardo, who now works as a Univision Deportes analyst, told Goal. "You want to get into the fifth game, but you have to think that first you have a lot of possibilities to get into second place. Then you probably have to play against Brazil because of the draw. But I think the most important thing right now is the mind of every player on the national team. Of course the coach will have to prepare for all the games in the first phase, but the most important game is the one against Germany on June 17."
Pardo, who was part of the Mexico team that fell to 2-1 Germany in the 1998 round of 16, was given the unenviable task of keeping Jurgen Klinsmann and Oliver Bierhoff off the board in that game. Luis Hernandez's goal nearly put El Tri through, but each of Germany's forwards found the back of the net to move on.
The types of mistakes that allowed Germany to find those late goals are the ones that Mexico can't afford even in the group stage, Pardo said, needing a perfect game to start the tournament off with a victory. In some ways, though, Mexico is playing with house money in a game nobody expects it to win and will likely have a well thought-out game plan from manager Juan Carlos Osorio.
"Juan Carlos Osorio is a very meticulous coach. He prepares every detail," Pardo said. "I think Mexico has a lot more to win than to lose. On paper, you can say against Germany you probably can lose, but a better result against Germany, a tie or you can win, you have to play with no doubts and have a lot of confidence. You have to have 100 percent of your mentality on that game and you have to play a perfect game. That means no mistakes on anything. If you have one opportunity, on that opportunity you have to score the goal because in that kind of game you have to play it with all your focus on the game, 100 percent concentration and no mistakes."
Having a coach like Osorio could work in Mexico's favor said Pardo, whose 146 caps are the second-most of any Mexico player. Osorio carefully planned for tournament-opening contests against Uruguay in the 2016 Copa America Centenario and Portugal in the 2017 Confederations Cup.
A strong start is key for Pardo, and Osorio may be able to use the time to his advantage.
"In the first game, Mexico has to prepare very well, with a good mentality, because Germany, for me, is the best team in the world in that part, the mentality. They have a winning mentality," he said. "Mexico has to prepare very, very well and they have at least seven months to start that game. It’s their most important game at the World Cup.
"Then, Korea and Sweden. Every nation, every team in the World Cup, you always have one dream. That is, of course, to go to the final and be the champion. There are favorites like Germany, Brazil, France, Spain, Argentina, but when we’re talking especially about Mexico I think Mexico has good players, a good squad, most of the players are playing in Europe. There are two players playing in Germany as well. So let’s see. In the beginning it looks hard, of course. It’s not easy. You’re playing the first game against Germany. But everything is possible in soccer."