¿Mexico, que paso? Instead of Ya Se Armo (Bud Light's Mexican national team campaign, more on that later) it's more like Se Desmadro or to borrow a phrase from El Chavo del Ocho, Se Chispotio. This qualifying campaign for next year's World Cup in Brazil was not supposed to be so difficult. What happened?
The U.S. and Mexico were "automatic" qualifiers because the rest of the teams in the CONCACAF were so weak. Yet as players from the rest of the region have made their way into the MLS and European leagues, they have become better players and conversely improved their national sides. After so many years of literally looking up at the two powerhouses, players from countries like Costa Rica and Honduras had a chance to make it difficult for Mexico to qualify. They saw that Mexico was struggling, and they smelled blood.
Teams that were once considered low-lying speed bumps in the way of the U.S. and Mexico could shift the paradigm of World Cup qualification and took every opportunity to do so.
Mexico will qualify for Brazil. They clobbered New Zealand 5-1 at the Estadio Azteca in the first round playoff, and won the second round 4-2 away last night.
So let them go. Brazil is a beautiful place to visit. The players can take in the beaches, the music, and the culture. In its current state, the Mexican national team will be going on a month-long vacation with some scheduled games while there. They are not contenders for the title. This is not the 1986 World Cup side, whose Manchester United-like self-belief and warrior spirit propelled them to the quarterfinals of that tournament. So what does Mexico have to do to become contenders for the ultimate global prize?
SHOW US THE MONEY
All State. Home Depot. Bud Light. These are just some of the companies that sponsor the Mexican national team here in the United States. There are plenty more that do so in Mexico itself, but you get the idea. There is plenty of money for a state of the art youth system set up. Mexico should be leading the world in coaching at the youth level because of their access to resources. As a matter of fact, they possess the financial firepower to have elite coaches, doctors, facilities, etc. I believe the talent is there, and with the proper coaching and infrastructure Mexico could be on its way to being a contender for the World Cup in the future. The Mexican Under-17 squad made it to the final of the U-17 World Cup after beating Argentina 3-0. The disconnect between the different squads that make up all the national teams has to be fixed.
Why is the full weight of Mexico's qualification placed squarely on the shoulders of a player that is not a starter for his club side? This is not fair to him and it's not fair to the rest of the players. They need to make sure the most in-form striker is an integral part of this squad. Whoever the coach is needs to take a trip to Spain to see Carlos Vela. Vela can score, and he can create chances for his teammates with his speed and football IQ. Notions that Vela's inclusion in the team would destabliize it are just that; theories that make good headlines and keep pundits bloviating on the air. They barely made it to Brazil, of course they need Vela. Opposing teams would have to worry about a gifted scorer who has proven himself in Europe. Unless Chicharito moves to another squad and becomes the starting forward there, Vela and Oribe Peralta should lead the forward line, with Hernandez coming off the bench.
A FOREIGN COACH
Mexico, I feel your pain. My national team, Colombia, went through a period of time where try as they might they did not qualify for the World Cup. I would be reminded of this fact every time I tried to play World Cup in the FIFA video game and Colombia would not be a squad I could play with.
Before Argentine Jose Pekerman took over, Colombia went through a period of upheaval in the national team. A coaching carousel kept spinning and respected coaches like Francisco Maturana were crucified by the media for irrational decisions. They left the team with their once-stellar reputations in tatters when nothing worked (sound familiar?). Stop the bleeding. Imagine a Muzak version of The Who's "Won't Get Fooled Again" playing from that carousel. The song keeps skipping and the lyrics "Meet the new boss/same as the old boss" repeat. The players see and hear this merry go round with its jarring music and images and they tune it out. Bring in a foreign coach that has proven himself. Someone that carries no baggage in the Mexican league, someone that has proven to take a team through the battles and ultimately won a war. In my opinion, that is the only way that the Mexican national team can fulfill its potential to be world beaters.
We will be discussing the Mexican national team's journey to the next World Cup with Andrea Canales from ESPNFC on Wednesday, November 20 at 4.30pm EST on the Soccer Senseis show. Call in and have your say 646 378 1867.