Mexico's goal is a top seed in World Cup

Posted by Rafa Ramos

It's time for the final round of CONCACAF World Cup qualifying to kick off. Jamaica is the first obstacle. Mexico need not worry. It has everything in its favor. The Reggae Boyz arrive in disarray and their first meeting takes place once again in Mexico City.

Even less worrisome upon review: Jamaica did not even advance to the 2012 Caribbean Cup semifinals. They were eliminated by Cuba and lost two of their last three games -- the one against the Cubans and another against Guatemala, which failed to advance to the CONCACAF's Hexagonal round.

Theodore Whitmore, Jamaica's head coach, exchanged words with only four of his players over the weekend; the rest of them he has just seen once during the last four months, and with disastrous results from that Caribbean Cup roster.

The lack of preparation, the demoralization of their players, the conflicts at the federation level, and even the neglect from their own front office when it comes to logistical details give a sense that they are sending their Reggae Boyz to the slaughterhouse at the Estadio Azteca, which awaits them with its altitude and pollution.

- Reto del Tri: cabeza de grupo en Brasil

Practically no one doubts that Mexico will make it to the World Cup. Months ago we dared to predict that they will do it in an unbeaten fashion, albeit not perfect, that is, they will not collect ten wins along the way.

The rest of the qualifying guests are going through their own particular problems. The U.S. national team doesn't have a defined system of play, because the most profound reasoning from their head coach is the simplistic mantra of "c'mon, have fun, play soccer." The puzzle must be put together by the players on the pitch, and Landon Donovan, the team's spiritual architect, has almost given up on it due to skepticism.

Honduras and Costa Rica have a generation of privileged soccer players, although they are still subjected to the handbrake applied by the results-focused and faithless coaches in command of their respective teams. Meanwhile, the time has come for Panama to ratify Dely Valdes' tenure, and it's not enough to appear as a World Cup contender, because this could be their moment to earn a berth via a playoff.

El Tri's mission? First of all, not to commit the sin of arrogance. For the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, they changed head coaches four times, going from a two-time national champion (Hugo Sanchez), to an U-17 World Cup champion (Chucho Ramirez), to a Don Juan in decline and held up by the relics of outdated victories (Sven-Goran Eriksson), and finally falling into the hands of their favorite firefighter, Javier Aguirre.

Oddly enough, in the first phase on the road to the previous World Cup, goal difference over Jamaica was what dramatically sent El Tri to the Hexagonal.

In that compulsory, necessary, pressing seriousness of respecting a 10-game process, with dangerous visits to Central America, El Tri has a clear objective: to be the top seed of a group at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, as confirmed by a member of their front office in Phoenix.

FIFA has outlined selection criteria for the eight World Cup groups and they adhere to the sui generis reference of the accumulation of points through friendly matches and official matches.

According to this parameter, FIFA has explained to CONCACAF that if a representative of theirs ends up in the top 10 of the FIFA world rankings, that country will be taken into account to be a seeded team in the World Cup draw, and that is El Tri's goal.

To start, they must finish their World Cup qualifying run unbeaten and also yield good results in friendly matches. That explains why they will have rivals such as Denmark's B team in Phoenix and Peru's B team in San Francisco. FIFA does not review lineups, but rather it supervises UEFA and CONMEBOL names and members and grants more points for this ranking when the victor is from soccer's Third World, CONCACAF.

Rafa Ramos blogs on and hosts ESPN Deportes Radio's daily sports talk show Raza Deportiva.

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