Ahead of Mexico’s game against Honduras on Friday, everybody knows about the heat, the hostility and the growing quality of Honduras as a soccer nation, highlighted by the London 2012 Olympics and the last World Cup. It is no big secret.
In line with the conditions, Friday’s game will require a lot of character and some big performances from Mexico’s more experienced players that have gone missing in recent games, most notably last time out in the 0-0 draw in the Azteca against Jamaica.
Here are three who have over 50 caps for El Tri and are vital to the team’s chances of getting a result in San Pedro Sula.
Giovani Dos Santos
In Mexico’s last game against Jamaica, Dos Santos was taken off at halftime after a strange first half in which he seemed lost as to what position he should be playing. Sometimes he kept to the touchline; other times he floated infield.
Now playing regularly and coming into form for Mallorca in La Liga, Dos Santos is running out of excuses and is due a positive performance for El Tri. For years he has been pinpointed as the player who can make the national team tick. With his good friend Carlos Vela absent, Dos Santos having a good game is more necessary than ever.
Now 23, Dos Santos already has 59 international caps under his belt and is coming into his prime. No one doubts that Dos Santos has major talent, we just haven’t seen it for too long, perhaps since that 2011 Gold Cup final, when he ran rings around the U.S. defense.
With his baby face still in tact, it’s hard to forget that image of Guardado waltzing into the 2006 World Cup picture at the last minute under Ricardo La Volpe and taking his chance with authority.
Since then, Guardado has been one of the most consistent names in the Mexico squad. But now, really for the first time, there are suggestions that his place may not be as secure as it once was.
Guardado’s form for Valencia has been patchy and in recent games for Mexico his lack of real impact has been worrying. With players like Hector Herrera, Marco Fabian, Jesus Corona, Javier Aquino and Angel Reyna all capable of playing on that left, Guardado is in need of a couple of quality performances for El Tri.
The big advantage Guardado has over the other players is that he has 88 caps for Mexico and has played in pressure games in possibly the best league in the world.
But that experience is only useful as long as it shows on the field. If not, the time is coming where Guardado’s hold on that left wing spot may come under danger.
Against Jamaica last month, the Tigres player was uninspiring in the center of midfield and genuine doubts remain over whether he is the player to anchor Mexico’s midfield come Brazil 2014.
Workmanlike, determined and certainly good enough to do a job in the Liga MX, at the international level you’d expect a little more, and Salcido needs to win over those who suggest that his days are numbered for El Tri, certainly in central midfield.
But the game against Honduras should suit Salcido and be an excellent opportunity to show all his experience and guile. It is likely to be a scrappy, tight affair and Salcido is the man for that type of situation.
How he performs over the next two matches, one likely to be played on the counter-attack and the other forcing the play, will give a clue as to Salcido’s suitability for Brazil 2014.
If it doesn’t work out, perhaps it would be better to try out one of the younger defensive midfielders in the Confederations Cup, while there is still time.
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