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Tata has one last shot with Mexico

With an aging roster and poor results in the most recent friendlies, Mexico looks like it has no chance to succeed at the World Cup.

The four-year cycle ends with the World Cup in Qatar. Gerardo “Tata” Martino’s run as manager of the Mexican national team has been a whirlwind, and he is the biggest villain in Mexico for his questionable tactics and controversial roster. If Mexico does poorly, at least Martino’s reign mercifully ends. 

This World Cup qualifying cycle was a little different. Mexico finished second and level in points with Canada. But fans weren’t pleased, and El Tri couldn’t win against Canada and the United States, the two biggest competitors in CONCACAF. And now they’ll have to face much stiffer competition, and the vibes couldn’t be lower right now. 

El Tri has one of the oldest squads in the tournament

The average age for Mexico is 28.1, among the oldest at the Cup. Their American counterparts, meanwhile, have an average of 24.0, the youngest squad in Qatar. And it’s not as if the young talent wasn’t there for Mexico, but Martino did not select them for whatever reason. 

@cabrafutbol Is Raul Jiménez’s time with El Tri over? #rauljimenez #wolverhampton #seleccionmexicana #tatamartino ♬ original sound – CABRA Futbol

Young stars such as Santi Gimenez, Diego Lainez, and Carlos Acevedo, who are the future of the Mexican national team, were not selected. Instead, Martino named an injury-plagued Raúl Jimenez, who hasn’t played in a game in two months. He also brought up three goalkeepers over the age of 35 and other players who fans thought were past their national team prime, which doesn’t bode well for the future. 

Martino doesn’t see a future in the Mexican national team, as he refuses to employ younger players or even acknowledge the legends. His beef with Javier “Chicharito” Hernández, the top all-time goal scorer in national team history, couldn’t come at a worse time with El Tri looking for a striker. This squad may be the worst in recent memory for Mexico fans.

Will Mexico finally break the curse? 

“El quinto partido” still haunts fans of El Tri. In the last seven World Cups, Mexico has exited in the round of sixteen. Every time it seems like they’ll finally break through, something goes wrong. Whether it’s Arjen Robben diving for a penalty, an insane goal by Maxi Rodríguez, or just the opponent’s strength, they haven’t been able to make the quarterfinals since 1986, when they were the host. 

It won’t be easy this time around, either. Mexico drew into Group C along with huge favorites Argentina, a good Poland team, and Saudi Arabia. Argentina simply have been Mexico’s padre– in my 22 years of life, I have never once seen Mexico beat Argentina in a competitive match that wasn’t FIFA on Playstation. So even if Mexico goes through, it won’t be in first place, and it probably won’t lead them to that quinto partido. 

El Tri’s opening match against Poland could very well determine who goes through. Mexico, at the minimum, have to secure a draw, but they should go all-in to win. But that might be difficult without a solid attack, and this Mexico team struggles to create many goal-scoring opportunities. Somewhere where a Lainez or Gimenez would have thrived.

Fans will show up no matter what

There aren’t many other fanbases like Mexico’s. Anywhere the national team goes, the fans go, and not even Qatar is too far. You can look to consecutive sellouts in the United States and Mexico. You can look to the Argentina and Mexico match being the most requested group stage ticket. There’s no doubt Mexican fans will be there. 

While our confidence level isn’t the highest, we’ll still root no matter what. Beating the World Cup winners in Germany in 2018 was one of the best moments in sports history. Why can’t they do it again? Like Chicharito said, “Imaginemos cosas chingonas.”