Blooding youngsters

Mexico, which won the gold medal in football at the London Olympics in 2012, had an appalling qualifying campaign in the CONCACAF group, losing five of its 10 games and finishing fourth. However, a convincing 9-3 aggregate win over a listless New Zealand in the play-offs sealed a sixth consecutive World Cup appearance for La Verde.

Manager Miguel Herrera, the fourth man to occupy the hot seat in recent times, has blooded a host of youngsters, playing in the domestic league. The team for the play-off victory comprised entirely players from Liga MX and 16 members of that squad have made it to the final 23 for the World Cup.

Herrera, one of the few managers to prefer a five-man defence, has found reasonable success in the recent friendlies in the implementation of an attack-minded 5-3-2 formation. His three-man central defence will be anchored by veteran skipper Rafa Marquez, playing in his fourth World Cup, while the two wing-backs Paul Aguilar on the right and Carlos Salcido (left) are expected to be entrusted with the job of providing width and pace to the attack.

The absence of injured central midfielder Juan Carlos Medina will hit the Mexicans hard and Porto’s box-to-box midfielder Hector Herrera might have to sit deeper (especially in Mexico’s second group game against Brazil) and give up on the freer role he usually enjoys with the national side and provide support to defensive midfielder Jose Vasquez.

Current CONCACAF Player of the Year, Oribe Peralta is sure to start upfront but Herrera is yet to decide on a suitable strike partner for him. Manchester United’s Javier Hernandez and Giovani Dos Santos (Villarreal) failed to impress in the recently concluded season and Mexico’s chances of progressing to the knockout rounds will depend on the workload Peralta can shoulder upfront. However, then a second round meeting with either Spain or Holland might be too big a hurdle for the team to cross.