Mexico is back, or so the Hexagonal table says. El Tri needs just one win to get into South Africa 2010 and complete its remarkable comeback. A win over El Salvador on Saturday (6 p.m. ET, Telemundo), combined with other results, could catapult Mexico into first place, and it could remain there until the final round of CONCACAF qualifying ends on Oct. 14.
But Mexico, believe it or not, has much to prove against the Salvadorans. This game might not appear tough -- El Salvador's last three qualifiers in Mexico resulted in losses of 4-1, 5-0 and 3-1 -- and Mexico's win might appear to be nothing but a slam dunk.
Still, before the Mexicans officially secure a spot in next summer's World Cup, they must continue evolving and get past a few more challenges.
Thanks to them, the defense suddenly has proven to be the team's deepest position. Márquez could have retired last month and Mexico wouldn't even have noticed. Still, a player with the talent and experience of Márquez, "
But where? Should he start and risk causing a disruption in an otherwise stable unit, no matter how talented he is? Talent alone does not win, and Aguirre's predecessor,
With players such as
Arguably the three most important players in Mexico's turnaround have been
Dos Santos and Blanco are both out, though, and won't be able to see the task through. If Mexico secures a spot in the World Cup, whether it's at home against El Salvador or in Port of Spain against Trinidad and Tobago, neither Blanco nor dos Santos will be around to help get the team there.
Enter who? Somebody needs to step into their offensive roles left vacant. Can
One wild card could be
Torrado, on the other hand, will be back after missing Mexico's 1-0 win over Honduras last month due to suspension, but someone needs to be the linchpin on the attack.
Mexico has won all four of its World Cup qualifiers played in Estadio Azteca, but the last three were all one-goal victories. El Tri put in a pedestrian-like performance in a 2-1 win over Trinidad on June 10 and needed late goals to beat the U.S. in August and Honduras on Sept. 9.
Mexico hasn't been dominant yet. There has been no convincing, tear-them-apart, Mexico-is-in-a-class-of-its-own rout that the team used to put on in days gone by. Even in 2001, when Mexico struggled to qualify for the World Cup, it won a home qualifier by four goals. Sure, Mexico beat Costa Rica by three goals at Estadio Saprissa, but that game was a contest until midway through the second half.
Mexico could punctuate its rise from fifth place to a berth at the World Cup by dropping a four- or five-goal rout on El Salvador. Such would be a perfect ending to Mexico's climb back to the top of the region. Then, there really would be no doubt who the Kings of CONCACAF are.