Mexico has qualified for the FIFA World Cup finals 14 times in all, more than any other side from the CONCACAF Zone. Mexico’s achieved their best-ever performances in the finals as tournament hosts in 1970 and 1986, reaching the last eight on both occasions. South Africa 2010 is their fifth appearance in the finals in a row. On all four previous occasions they have bowed out in the Round of 16.
Javier Aguirre is Mexico’s most successful coach of recent times. After guiding a weaker side in Pachuca to the league championship in 1999, El Vasco was handed the job of reviving the national team’s faltering bid to qualify for Korea/Japan 2002. After doing just that, he then took the Mexicans to the top of a challenging group that contained Italy, Croatia and Ecuador, though their Asian adventure came to an end with a last-16 defeat to USA.
Recalled from retirement, Cuauhtemoc Blanco will play a pivotal role in South Africa. The 37-year old forward is his country’s second-highest scorer and is famous for his ‘Blanco hop’ in the 1998 World Cup against South Korea. 2005 U-17 World Cup winning members Giovani dos Santos and Carlos Vela have shown lots of promise and they’ve got a perfect platform to prove themselves at the highest level this summer. Gerrardo Torrado, Andres Guardado, Jonathan dos Santos, Israel Castro and Adrian Aldrete are the only midfielders Aguirre included in his provisional squad for the finals and they are almost certain of a place in the final squad. With such a few options, they have to be at their best. Skipper Rafael Marquez will be the central figure at defense.
Mexico has survived three different coaches in the process of qualifying. Hugo Sanchez was fired after failing to qualify for the 2008 Beijing Olympics, and then Sven-Goran Erikson coached the team for just 13 games which included six losses, and the team was in serious trouble before Aguirre came to the rescue for the second time in his career. This team beat Belize unconvincingly in the second qualifying round, and drew Jamaica, Canada and Honduras in the next phase. They struggled and advanced only on goal differential to make the fourth and final round of qualification. Mexico flourished in the CONCACAF Zone, moving up from fifth to second in the six-team qualification with five wins, one draw and one loss. They finished second behind rivals USA, but their most impressive showing in this stage came against the Americans. After sitting nil-nil at halftime, they poured on five goals in the final 45 minutes for a blowout 5-0 victory. Aguirre has on his hands one of the best Mexican defensive legions in history which includes World Cup experience players: Carlos Salcido, Ricardo Osorio, Francisco “El Maza” Rodriguez, and Rafa Marquez. The list is completed by Jonny Magallon, Hector Moreno, Paul Aguilar, Efrain Juarez . Los Tricolores aren’t exactly a star-studded group like some of the other South American squads and goal keeping could be a problem but the talent is there.
Group A is a pretty open group with France leading the line as favorites and Uruguay also capable of winning the group along side the hosts South Africa. Even though hosts nations always find a way making into the 2nd round, this time around I predict Mexico and South Africa losing out to France and Uruguay. France needed a play-off to get the world cup but has more world class players that can decide a game. While Uruguay have one of the best strikers in European football with Diego Forlan. That will be that difference in this group.
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