A rejuvenated Rafael Marquez had another run in the spotlight as Mexico’s leader at the 2014 World Cup, but his national team career could be over, this time on a more permanent basis. After bringing Márquez back into the fold before the World Cup, manager Miguel Herrera discussed his captain's future in a press conference on Tuesday.
“We have to think about the people who will hardly reach the end of the upcoming cycle,” Herrera said. “I have already spoken with Rafa Márquez; I haven’t gotten a hold of Carlos Salcido, but I will try — to thank them.”
Márquez wore the armband for Mexico in Brazil – a record fourth time captaining his country n the grand stage – and played a major role in El Tri’s success, but he also had a critical role in its exit from the tournament. He was called for a penalty deep into stoppage time of Mexico’s match against the Netherlands in the round of 16, adjudged to have fouled Arjen Robben. Instead of vilifying the 35-year-old León center back, Mexican fans defended him vociferously, with “no era penal” (“it wasn’t a penalty”) pasted all over social media.
While Márquez started every match, Salcido only played in the group game against Cameroon and the knockout match against the Netherlands.
Herrera is looking to the future for who could comprise the next generation of Mexican senior national team players. He referred to the under-23 squad that won the gold medal at the 2012 Summer Olympics, as well as the Under-17 world champions from 2011, singling out players such as Hector Moreno, Hiram Meir, Hugo Ayala and Diego Reyes.
“They are fundamental in the design of this process,” Herrera said.
The manager also discussed using naturalized players, pointing to World Cup champion Germany as an example of what they can provide. Herrera said he is not opposed to using naturalized players in his own set-up, should they fit in with the team.
“We are going to look at all who are eligible and who would fit in with the team if they are playing well,” he said. “Whether they are Mexican or naturalized isn’t important. Based on the examples in other countries, it’s clear: the goal is to win. That’s what the people want.”
Herrera hasn’t actually signed a contract yet to continue as Mexico’s coach after December, but he said the sides are close to an agreement and that “for the details [of the deal], we have time.”
Mexico’s director of national teams Héctor González Iñárritu said continuation from one cycle to the next would be important.
“Obviously, continuity is a principal, in this case of the coaching staff,” Iñárritu said. “We can talk about scouting, training, the mentality of the players. These are various points to analyze; they are guidelines that you can go pointing out to innovate, improve and not repeat the anguish and the bad Hexagonal that we had.”
Mexico finished fourth in the final round of CONCACAF qualifiers after winning just two of its 10 matches, needing a home-and-away playoff against New Zealand to qualify for the 2014 World Cup. Along the way, the federation burned through three managers before settling on Herrera to lead the team in Brazil.
Now that they have their man, Mexican officials have shown immense support for the charismatic Herrera, nicknamed “El Piojo” (the louse). It seems he will be at the helm for some time to come, with both sides confident in completing a deal that will put him in charge through the 2018 World Cup in Russia.