Mexico search for the formula to win

Posted by Andrea Canales

A simple formula for many coaches around the world is to roll out a roster that wins, then keep the same players written into the starting lineup for as long as they keep winning. Obviously, that technique isn't quite as basic on the international level, where teams do not play together for months at a time, but a variation on that approach is common for many teams.

Mexico's coach, Jose Manuel "Chepo" de la Torre, may be swayed from putting out a starting 11 identical to the one that earned El Tri a confidence-boosting win versus the Ivory Coast in their latest match. Though those players performed well, there's often the idea that a European player, even one whose typical role is on the bench, has a right to a starting spot over a domestic league player.

Whether or not one agrees with that opinion, it's De la Torre's responsibility to make that call, and he has consistently given Andres Guardado, Javier Hernandez, Diego Reyes and Giovani dos Santos the green light as starters. If it's assumed that those four are starters and Jesus Corona is in goal, then the other spots left don't allow for everyone who contributed to the Ivory Coast win to start.

The controversy about whether striker Oribe Peralta should start over Hernandez aside, it's actually a great problem for Mexico to have. Earlier in the year, it seemed as if no one was going to help Hernandez with the scoring load, so now to have someone doing well enough to compete for his starting spot is a big improvement. It's also a big relief given that Hernandez is recovering from injury and is probably not fully fit to go for 90 minutes due to a lack of playing time.

Mexico's famous 12th man is supposed to be Azteca Stadium itself. Even now, some pundits in Mexico have vowed that if the stadium is completely full, El Tri will win. They seem to fail to grasp that Azteca's secret advantage historically was probably that the local players had a greater level of comfort playing in the altitude of the location. It's an especially dangerous trap for players to assume that just walking into a crowded stadium will intimidate Honduras into losing.

When the teams last met in Hex qualifying, Honduras fought back from two goals down to tie the match, so this is not a squad that will do anything but scrap to the very end.

Having seen the USA, Costa Rica and even lowly Jamaica walk out of Azteca this year with points, Honduras will be looking for the same for themselves. The Catrachos have never beaten Mexico in Azteca, but then again, Mexico has never earned as many draws as the squad has under De la Torre, so there is always a first time for everything.

One key player for Mexico will likely be Christian "Chaco" Gimenez. The veteran midfielder did the small -- but vital -- things well in the match against the Ivory Coast. For all the fuss about naturalized players, Gimenez isn't some amazing hired gun. He's a good player, though, and a consummate pro. If the microscope placed on players like him isn't too suffocating, he can make a crucial contribution.

Honduras seems to be playing up the clenbuterol issue with goalkeeper Corona partly as a distraction. What better player to hound and perhaps cause to lose focus than the netminder?

Off-the-field elements aside, Honduras probably will threaten Mexico from a defensive stance, relying on counter chances created by a lone striker, likely Carlos Costly.

Only a single point separates the two teams in the Hex, and while Honduras would be happy to share another point via a tie, Mexico badly needs the slight breathing room of the full three points.

So two out of the three possible results of win, lose or draw would make Honduras content, but El Tri can only be satisfied with one. Despite most factors lining up in Mexico's favor for a win, overall, Honduras has to like those odds.


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