Time to Resurface
After missing the 1990 World Cup, Mexico has qualified for all subsequent editions. The thing is that they’ve never been able to advance beyond the Round of 16. They hope to rewrite history at Qatar World cup soccer 2022, but it won’t be easy. El Tri isn’t even the betting online favorite to finish as the runners-up in Group C.
Having a certified scorer like Raul Jimenez increases their chances, but he’s going to need a lot of help. There are veterans such as Hirving Lozano, Guillermo Ochoa, Andres Guardado, and Jesus Corona, but head coach Gerardo Martino also has an ace up his sleeve. We’re talking about Diego Lainez, who’s only 22 years old, but he already scored in competitions like the UEFA Europa League.
Lainez began his career in Mexico. While his brother decided to join Pachuca, he decided to join America, one of the most popular clubs in the country.
His first season was in 2016-17. He made his debut in a Copa MX game, but three days later also played in a Liga MX match. He became one of the team’s youngest players to debut for the senior team at only 16 years old.
Curiously enough, he scored his first goal against Pachuca. Actually, he scored two. It was in August 2018, and he became the youngest player to score a double with the club, and the fifth youngest to score a goal in America’s history. That season, Las Aguilas won the title.
Overall, he played for America in 51 games and scored five goals.
Yes, he only scored five goals, but he became an artist when it comes to creating chances, which is why Real Betis (La Liga) didn’t think twice to sign him. Los Verdiblancos offered him a multi-year contract and he accepted it with one goal in mind: become Mexico’s top player.
In his first season, he played in 16 games and scored one goal. It was against Rennes in the UEL, allowing him to become the youngest Mexican player to score in the continental tournament.
The following season, his playing time increased, but his stats didn’t. He also scored only one goal in 15 games. In 2020-21, he appeared in 21 La Liga games, but couldn’t find the back of the net either.
Last season, he played 13 games in total and scored two goals. Both were in the Copa del Rey, which Real Betis ended up winning after defeating Valencia in the Grand Finale. That was Los Verdiblancos first title in 18 years.
Unfortunately for him, those two goals weren’t enough to convince head coach Manuel Pellegrini to keep him on the team. He still is under contract with Betis, but he’s now playing for Braga (Primeira Liga) on a loan.
With El Tri
World cup 2022 will be Lainez’s first senior WC, but he already represented Mexico in the U-17 and U-20 WC. In the 2017 U-17 WC, he scored two goals. Mexico was eliminated by Iran in the Round of 16. In the 2019 U-20 WC, he didn’t score, and El Tri didn’t advance to the knockout stages.
Regarding the senior team, he was called up for the first time in August 2018, but only for some international friendlies. Later, he became a regular, scoring his first goal in 2020 against Algeria. Most recently, he scored in the 2021 CONCACAF Nations League Final against USA, but Mexico ended up losing 3-2. He was included in the Team of the Tournament.
Lainez didn’t score on the road to the 2022 WC, but Martino always trusted him as a star substitute.
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Mexico in the 2022 World Cup
As mentioned before, Mexico is in Group C. El Tri will face Argentina, Poland, and Saudi Arabia. As expected, Argentina dominates the Las Vegas odds to win it at -250. Robert Lewandowski and Poland come next at +450, while Mexico is +500.
If you were looking for an underdog to include in your world cup odds, Mexico could be the answer. After all, El Tri has qualified for the Round of 16 in the last seven editions of the WC. To qualify for Group C, Argentina is -1400, Poland -140, and Mexico -120.