Following its gold medal in men's soccer at the 2012 London Olympics, Mexico is being trumpeted as a favorite to win the 2014 World Cup, but that's getting ahead of the game.
Since 1994, El Tri has qualified for the every World Cup and advanced to the knockout phase only to lose in the round of 16 every time.
Then there is the matter of getting through the Hexagonal. Yes, Mexico will be heavy favorite to win the Concacaf final-round qualifying group.
And yes, it was the only team to sweep its six games in the semifinal group. But it didn't exactly overrun the opposition -- the only victory by more than two goals came at Guyana when it scored all five goals in the last 12 minutes.
If Chepo de la Torre's muchachos needed to be brought down to earth, Wednesday's friendly against Denmark certainly would do it. They could only manage a 1-1 tie against a team missing all its foreign-based stars and they were jeered off the field by the 43,000-plus crowd at the University of Phoenix Stadium.
WHY THE USA SHOULD BE CONFIDENT. The USA beat Mexico each time it has hosted the Tri in the last three Hexagonals. Each game was played in Columbus, Ohio, and each game ended 2-0. Mexico will be heavily favored when it hosts the USA March 26 at Azteca Stadium, but it has lost its air of invincibility. The USA's 1-0 win over Mexico in August 2012 was its first victory over El Tri on Mexican soil in 25 meetings.
WHY THE USA SHOULD BE WORRIED. The last time the two teams faced off when something was on the line, Mexico won handily. The Tri came back from 2-0 down to win the 2011 Gold Cup final going away, 4-2. And Mexico has since upgraded its team, winning the gold medal in men's soccer at the 2012 London Olympics and incorporating many of its under-23 players into the full national team.
WHO YOU ALREADY KNOW. In just two-plus seasons at Manchester United, Javier Hernandez has already scored 46 goals in all competitions and is at 24 already the best-known Mexican player internationally since Hugo Sanchez of Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid fame. This will be Chicharito's first Hexagonal. Players back from the 2009 Concacaf finals include Carlos Salcido, Giovani dos Santos and Andres Guardado.
WHO YOU'LL KNOW SOON. The excitement surrounding Mexico's national team centers on its young midfielders fast-tracked from the 2012 Olympic team: Javier Aquino, Hector Herrera and Marco Fabian. Aquino moved from Cruz Azul to Villarreal in Spain at the end of the January transfer window, while Herrera, who goes by the nickname “El Zorrillo” (The Skunk), and the popular Fabian will remain at Pachuca and Chivas, respectively, through Mexico's Torneo Clausura before probably moving to Europe.
Day 1: Feb. 6 vs. Jamaica (TV: UniMas, ESPN2, 9:30 p.m. ET).
U.S. Series: Day 3 -- March 26: Mexico vs. USA in Mexico City; Day 8 -- Sept. 10: USA vs. Mexico at site TBD.
ROSTER (Jamaica game):
Goalkeepers: Jose de Jesus Corona (Cruz Azul), Cirilo Saucedo (Tijuana), Alfredo Talavera (Toluca).
Defenders: Francisco Rodriguez (Club America), Hector Moreno (Espanyol, Spain), Jorge Torres Nilo (Tigres), Darvin Chavez (Monterrey), Diego Reyes (Club America), Hugo Ayala (Tigres), Severo Meza (Monterrey), Paul Aguilar (Club America).
Midfielders: Javier Aquino (Villarreal, Spain), Carlos Salcido (Tigres), Angel Reyna (Pachuca), Hector Herrera (Pachuca), Jesus Molina (Club America), Marco Fabian (Guadalajara), Andres Guardado (Valencia, Spain), Fernando Arce (Tijuana).
Forwards: Giovani dos Santos (Mallorca, Spain), Javier Hernandez (Man. United, England), Aldo de Nigris (Monterrey), Oribe Peralta (Santos).
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