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Mexico manager Martino is 90 minutes away from being sacked - here's how he should try to save his job vs Saudi Arabia

8:47 AM MYT 30/11/2022
Tata Martino Mexico Sweden
GOAL breaks down the line-up Mexico's Gerardo "Tata" Martino should pick against Saudi Arabia with his job at risk.

Tex-Mex. Americans trying to pronounce their city names. And now, Gerardo "Tata" Martino's managerial regime that has brought shame to El Tri at the World Cup.

These are among the core hatreds of many people in Mexico, with the latter gripe potentially vaulting to the top of the list by the end of the week. That's how bad things have gotten under Martino.

Mexico enter their third Group C match, against Saudi Arabia on Wednesday, needing to win and get help elsewhere to advance to the knockout stage. Specifically, they must win and either see Poland defeat Argentina or have Argentina defeat or draw Poland while El Tri secure a superior goal differential.

If Mexico don't advance, it would be a failure not witnessed since 1978. If they also fail to score against Saudi Arabia (they've not scored in four consecutive World Cup outings, dating back to 2018), it would be the first time in the nation's history that they've failed to find the net at the tournament.

All bleak, but maybe there's a miracle in store? In some respects, Martino is limited by the squad he's chosen and the tactics he's drilled into the team since being appointed in 2019. But there are also choices he can make to best position himself to still be employed when the weekend arrives.

Let's take a look at the line-up that could best suit Mexico against Saudi Arabia:

  • Guillermo Ochoa Mexico Argentina World Cup 2022

    GK: Guillermo Ochoa

    Not even Mexico miracle-maker Ochoa could thwart a determined Lionel Messi in Argentina's 2-0 win last Saturday, but let's take nothing away from the goalkeeper, who is El Tri royalty.

    A clean sheet will be crucial against Saudi Arabia. Mexico can hardly be expected to score one goal, so conceding anything would put near-impossible pressure on the attack.

    Ochoa will be the man between the posts, trying to prevent catastrophe. Mexico couldn't ask for anyone better to take on that job.

  • Jesus Gallardo Mexico Argentina World Cup 2022

    LB: Jesus Gallardo

    Gallardo started at wing-back last match as Martino went to a back-five against in hopes of slowing a world-class attack. While Argentina scored twice, Gallardo wasn't at fault.

    We expect him to play a more traditional left-back role against Saudi Arabia as Mexico revert to a back-four in order to fit another attack-minded player on the pitch in search of goals.

    No problem there, as Gallardo is perfectly comfortable in that system.

  • Hector Moreno Mexico Argentina World Cup 2022

    CB: Hector Moreno

    Much better from Moreno against Argentina compared to his nightmares in previous matches. Way to rise to the occasion!

    He'll need to be mistake-free again when he starts Wednesday.

    Just as important, though, is the 34-year-old's leadership during a tense game that could have his younger team-mates extremely nervous. This is where experience is crucial, and even more so if neither Hector Herrera nor Andres Guardado suit up.

  • Cesar Montes Mexico Argentina World Cup 2022

    CB: Cesar Montes

    Montes is having a really good World Cup and is one of the few Mexico players to have shined in both games.

    Part of the reason Mexico fans are so frustrated right now is that some of the nice efforts from the back-line are being completely wasted by an unproductive attack.

    One more strong effort, and maybe there will be a reward at the end of it this time.

  • Jorge Sanchez Mexico World Cup 2022

    RB: Jorge Sanchez

    Sanchez was a surprise omission from the starting line-up vs Argentina. His attacking abilities from wide defensive positions would have been perfect for the occasion as El Tri tried to play counter-attacking football.

    Desperate for a spark, there's no way Martino can keep the 24-year-old on the bench.

    His youth is an asset, not a liability.

  • Ochoa Edson Alvarez Mexico Poland celebrate

    CM: Edson Alvarez

    Another weird benching in that Argentina match. Alvarez looked solid against Poland but was an unused substitute in that second group game. It's unclear why Martino made that choice.

    With Guardado now sidelined due to injury and Herrera in dismal form, Alvarez needs to be reinstated into the midfield to provide authority in the centre of the park.

  • Luis Chavez Mexico Argentina World Cup 2022

    CM: Luis Chavez

    Mexico are desperate for energy and positive play, and so far this tournament, Chavez has done his job bringing those traits to the midfield.

    He just needs better production around him. With tweaks elsewhere, perhaps that support will come soon.

  • Carlos Alberto Rodriguez Mexico 2022

    CM: Carlos Alberto Rodriguez

    Hector Herrera is not giving El Tri the playmaking he used to consistently offer, and there isn't any more time to wait on him to pull it together.

    Carlos Alberto Rodriguez, the 25-year-old of Cruz Azul, is an attacking midfielder who would be allowed to push forward with Alvarez anchoring the midfield. We can't be sure whether he will be the right man until he's out under the bright lights, but given Herrera's uninspiring play, it's worth giving him a chance.

  • Alexis Vega Mexico Argentina World Cup 2022

    LW: Alexis Vega

    The in-form winger was given an impossible task against Argentina: create goalscoring opportunities in a no-striker formation while also relentlessly pressing the ball.

    Vega did as well as he could there, but he'll be relieved to have more team-mates joining him in attack against Saudi Arabia so he doesn't feel so overwhelmed by responsibilities.

  • Rogelio Funes Mori Mexico Poland

    ST: Rogelio Funes Mori

    Raul Jimenez and Henry Martin have not impressed, and the former is playing through an injury that probably keeps him out of contention to go a full 90 minutes anyways.

    Funes Mori isn't a sexy alternative, but he's still something different. In a moment of desperation, shaking things up for the sake of shaking things up could be the best course of action for Martino.

  • Hirving Lozano Mexico Argentina World Cup 2022

    RW: Hirving Lozano

    Lozano looks isolated and exhausted so far at the World Cup. He's received virtually no attacking support, in part because of the quality of team-mates but also because of defensive-minded tactics.

    He can create magic out of very little and turn Mexico's horrific World Cup campaign all the way around in an instant.

    Martino will be asking a lot of Lozano on Wednesday, but there's no player in the squad better equipped to answer the call.

  • Mexico Saudi Arabia XI

    How Mexico should line up

    Jorge Sanchez, Edson Alvarez, Carlos Alberto Rodriguez and Rogelio Funes Mori are all candidates to come into a team on the brink of World Cup elimination.

    Martino is expected to return to a 4-3-3 formation against Saudi Arabia.