Mexico

Population: 118 million

Area: 1,958,201 km2

Capital: Mexico

Currency: Mexican peso

Federation: Federacion Mexicana de Futbol, founded in 1927, affiliated to FIFA in 1929

Registered players: 325,000

Kit colours: Green shirts, white shorts, red socks

Team nickname: El Tri

World Cup record: Quarter-finalists (1970, 1986), second round (1994, 1998, 2002, 2006, 2010), first round (1930, 1950, 1954, 1958, 1962, 1966, 1978)

Gold Cup: Winner (1965, 1971, 1977, 1993, 1996, 1998, 2003, 2009, 2011), finalist (1967, 2007), 3rd place (1973, 1981, 1991), semi-finalist (2013), 4th place (1969)

Copa America: Finalist (1993, 2001), 3rd place (1997, 1999, 2007)

How they qualified for FIFA World Cup 2014: Came 4th in the CONCACAF final qualifying group with 11pts behind the United States 22, Costa Rica 18, Honduras 15 and ahead of Panama 8 and Jamaica 5, with 3 wins, 3 draws, 2 defeats, 7 goals for and 9 against. Then beat New Zealand 5-1 and 4-2 (9-3 agg) in the play-offs.

Top clubs: America, Cruz Azul, Guadalajara, Pumas

Once the giant of the CONCACAF zone, poor Mexico had to settle for fourth place in the final group of six and squeezed into the World Cup finals through the play offs.

They proceeded to smash New Zealand out of the way 5-1 in Wellington and 4-2 at home under the guidance of a new coach, Miguel “Piojo” (the flea) Herrera, their fourth coach of the qualifying campaign.

Herrera went into the play off building his side around players he knew well such as veteran defender Rafael Marquez. But he dropped stalwarts such as Giovani dos Santos of Villarreal and Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez of Manchester United.

Their potency in front of goal didn’t seem to suffer however and Oribe Peralta smacked home five goals against the hapless Kiwis.

Peralta also scored a double as Mexico won the Olympic gold medal against Brazil at London 2012, which ended 2-1 for El Tri, as Mexico are called after their tricolor flag. The 30-year-old Santos Laguna striker is adored in Mexico and he had already scored five goals in the World Cup qualification group stage, to put him on a level ranking with Chicharito.

Mexico had been exempt from the first two rounds and with coach Jose Manuel de la Torre, who had been at the helm since 2011, they cruised through the third round with a certain style, winning their six games against Costa Rica, El Salvador and Guyana.

De la Torre had, to his credit, put Mexico back on track after their last-16 elimination at the hands of Argentina during the 2010 World Cup.

After that, however, Mexico went all wobbly in the final group phase where their team spirit went west and their wing play which had been excellent up until then, fell flat. They suffered home draws against Jamaica, Costa Rica and a home defeat to Honduras at the Aztec Stadium.

This dreadful slog through the final group cost the job of three coaches as De la Torre, Luis Fernando Tena (1 match) and Victor Manuel Vucetich (2 matches).

Herrera stepped in after winning a second straight championship with America and Mexico should be a much more serious bet for the World Cup, where they have been drawn with the hosts Brazil, Croatia and Cameroon.

This is a trickier group thank it may seem, but Mexico will be confident of making through to the last-16, as they have done at the last five World Cups.

And if the Aztecs make it to the quarters, as they did in 1970 and 1986, then ‘El Piojo’ will be the hero of an unlikely comeback.

AFP

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