With a second-place finish in the CONCACAF Qualifying Tournament, the Mexican National Team qualified for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar. Placed in Group C, Mexico will meet Argentina, Poland and Saudi Arabia in the group stage. It will be a test, but Mexico has a chance to move on because of these five reasons.
Good Qualification Tournament
The Mexican National Team had a strong qualification tournament, finishing second in the CONCACAF Qualifiers. Mexico tied Canada with an 8-4-2 record, as both teams scored 28 points. With eight goals allowed, they finished second in goals against, while Mexico scored 17 for the third-most goals, behind World Cup qualifiers Canada and the United States. Mexico’s two losses in the tournament came at the hands of the United States and Canada, falling 2-0 and 2-1, respectively. Both losses came in November 2021, and Mexico was able to bounce back and win the required games to qualify, showing their resilience and skill that should help them advance.
Leading the team in net will be Guillermo Ochoa, who brings a wealth of experience having already been a part of four World Cup teams for the Mexican Team, although he didn’t play in the 2006 and 2010 World Cups. In eight starts throughout the two World Cups Ochoa has played, he finished with three clean sheets and allowed nine goals. Ochoa has an average save percentage of 76.7% at the World Cup. Along with his World Cup appearances, Ochoa has also led the Mexican National Team to four Gold Cup wins in 2009, 2011, 2015 and 2019, also being named the Gold Cup Glove in 2019. His veteran presence and skill in net for the upcoming World Cup should prove to be an added advantage for Mexico.
Experience at the World Cup
Ochoa is just one of the veterans on the Mexican National Team that will help lead the team past the group stage. This will be Mexico’s eighth time in a row qualifying for the World Cup, with 1990 being the last time the team missed out. Mexico has a few players who have participated in multiple tournaments, headlined by midfielder and captain Andres Guardado, who has played in four World Cups for Mexico. Mexico’s attacking front three also returns from the 2018 World Cup, with forwards Hirving Lozano, Raul Jimenez and Jesus Corona combining for 222 caps and 55 goals. Jimenez has already played in two World Cups, while defender Hector Moreno will look to lead the defense after three World Cup appearances.
Stop the curse
While Mexico has years of history at the World Cup, its best appearance comes from 1970 and 1986, when Mexico played host to the World Cup and also reached the quarterfinals. Recently, however, Mexico has not been able to make it past the Round of 16, with many calling it the “Quinto Partido Curse.” Starting in 1994 and going on for the following six years after that, Mexico has made it past the group stage, only to get bounced in the Round of 16, unable to make it to the quarterfinals. With multiple players returning from past World Cups and the younger players growing up seeing the curse in action for so many years, the Mexican National Team will once again be determined to make it past the group stage and reach the ever-elusive fifth game.
Although Mexico has qualified for the World Cup and has had a solid start to the 2022 CONCACAF Nations League Tournament, fans remain discontent with manager Gerardo Martino. Martino began his time as Mexico’s manager with a more attacking mindset, however lately his cautiousness has resulted in Mexico scoring one or no goals in eight of their last 12 matches. With fans calling for his job and rumblings of a short list of replacements being made, Martino will want Mexico to do the best possible in order for his job to remain after the World Cup. Martino also has an advantage against Argentina, as he has managed Argentine star Lionel Messi twice already in his career. With the pressure to perform and a familiarity with Argentina, Martino should help lead Mexico past the group stage.