Tata Martino remains optimistic that Mexico will be well-prepared for World Cup qualification later in the year even though El Tri will begin the year against opposition outside of Europe's traditional powers.
A day after labeling March's first opponent, the Czech Republic, as a 'second-line' team in Europe, Martino repeated the term when describing March's second opponent, Greece.
Yet, as the 57-year-old prepares for his second year at the helm of the Mexico national team, he still believes his team can achieve the most important goal this season and be prepared to excel in World Cup qualification when it begins later this year.
That includes a match before the Concacaf Nations League Final Four, in which El Tri will take on Costa Rica in the semifinal and, if they win, the United States and Honduras in the final.
"If we can finalize them, they’re against very important opponents, and that would leave us with four really good games in the last time we get together with the players before the start of World Cup qualification," Martino said in a news conference Thursday.
"The goal this year is to get ready for the most important thing for us this year, which is qualification and getting to the next World Cup."
Finalizing the opponents may not be as easy as Martino would hope. Initial rumors indicated a team like Italy or the Netherlands would come to the U.S. to play Mexico in March, but negotiations with those teams fell through.
The manager suspects part of the difficult was Concacaf rival United States agreeing to travel to Europe for March matches against the Netherlands and Wales. Italy is playing England and Germany in the March window.
"What I want to say first is not having top national teams from Europe doesn’t mean that we don’t have historical strength. They have good ranking, it’s just that they’re not the kind of teams that you in the press and us were expecting at first," Martino said.
"I’m not the best-authorized voice to explain why the negotiations didn’t come through. I don’t participate in the negotiations. I just can give my point of view with respect to the opponents we’re facing.
"It’s clear, and I imagine that one of the explanations, is that the United States scheduled two games in Europe which really cut down on the chance we could bring in one of those European national teams who are looking to play two games.
"The two most relevant games in this region are against Mexico and the United States. The United States is going to Europe to play two very important matches so I assume that makes it much more difficult to be able to bring in those types of national teams."
El Tri's match against the Czech Republic takes place March 26 in Charlotte with the game against Greece coming three days later in Arlington, Texas.