A horrific qualifying campaign, a sex ban for all the players, and an in-form striker who’s not interested in playing. But it’s not all bad for El Tri. Here are 10 things you need to know about Mexico.
1. Miguel Herrera was the last Mexican coach standing
Miguel Herrera, who became Mexico’s fourth coach during the near-disastrous 2013 campaign, got El Tri thought its home-and-away playoff into the World Cup, and was allowed to stay on as coach.
2. Defensive on paper, attacking on grass
Mexico plays an unusual 5-3-2 formation, though it’s not quite as defensive-minded and possession-based as a format like that would suggest.
3. Ochoa has won the competition at keeper
Jesus Corona of Cruz Azul or Guillermo Ochoa of French club Ajaccio have been in a long-running contest to decide who should start between the sticks. Rumor has it; that Ochoa will get the nod, which will be a big relief after he was reserve keeper at the 2006 and 2010 World Cups.
4. The goalkeeper is protected by centurions
In a bit of a surprise, Herrera named Carlos Salcido to the final 23-man squad, and he joins fellow defender and captain Rafa Marquez, who himself was recalled for late in the campaign last year. Salcido has 119 caps for El Tri, while Marquez has 118.
5. Gio adds Brazilian flair to the attack
Look for much of the action to move through midfielder Carlos Pena, but look for Giovani dos Santos to do the magic stuff in the final third. Villarreal midfielder Gio is the son of former Brazilian international Zizinho, and is capable of things like this:
6. The goalscorer isn’t who you think it will be
While Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez is the best-known of the Mexican forwards, it’s actually Oribe Peralta who has saved Mexico’s campaign, scoring eight goals in five matches between September and November to help secure fourth-place in CONCACAF and the playoff win against New Zealand.
7. This team won the Olympics in 2012
Confidence is clearly shaken with the circus that was 2013, but a strong start will have everyone talking about the summer of 2012, when Mexico took gold at the Olympics. If that happens, the only thing that will be remembered about qualification is that Mexico qualified.
8. No meat, no sex for players
Bad memories from 2011 still linger. That year, five El Tri players (including Ochoa) were suspended from the CONCACAF Gold Cup for using banned substance clenbuterol, and later that year, eight U-22 players were expelled from a tournament in Ecuador after they were caught bringing prostitutes into their hotel rooms. Perhaps in response to these past demerits, Herrera is banning players from eating meat (as clenbuterol is sometimes used to fatten cattle), and has declared the World Cup a no-sex and no-alcohol zone for the team. He said that “a player who can not endure a month or 20 days without having intercourse” is not prepared to be a professional.”
9. STILL no Carlos Vela
For all his law-and-order, Herrera has not yet solved the team’s biggest controversy-the continued feud between the FMF and Real Sociedad striker Carlos Vela, now entering its fifth year and keeping the best Mexican player in the world right now from competing for Mexico.
Despite drawing one of the short straws that placed them in a bracket with host nation Brazil, they could conceivably do well enough against Cameroon and Croatia to finish second in their group-where they’d then be likely to bow out against the Group B winner, which will most certainly be Spain or Netherlands.