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Mexico 2022 World Cup Preview: El Tri’s Quarterfinal Quest Continues

For seven straight World Cups, it’s been last-16-and-out for El Tri. Amid plenty of pressure and while battling injuries, can this time be different?

Canada may have been the story of Concacaf qualifying, but Mexico ended up level on points despite some disappointing results. El Tri handled almost every inferior team, and while the results weren’t dazzling, they were at least effective. Manager Tata Martino has been under fire for some time for uninspiring performances in the Gold Cup, Nations League and qualifying. But the fact remains that Mexico has been, in large part, fine without being spectacular.

Some of the drab performance has to do with an aging player pool without a real direction for the future. This side dealt with numerous injuries in qualifying and will continue to try and put the pieces together in Qatar. Nonetheless, El Tri has gone 4-3-3 since qualification, which doesn’t exactly inspire confidence.

The pressure is immense for Martino and Co. The Argentine manager said he feels like public enemy No. 1, and that’s before the team even steps foot on the pitch in Doha. Martino even reportedly turned in his resignation in September, but it wasn’t accepted by the federation and he was convinced to stay until after the World Cup. Should Mexico get out of a group that features both Argentina and Poland to make its eighth straight appearance in the knockout stage, perhaps calmer seas are ahead. For now, the storm of a displeased fan base rages on as the team heads to Qatar.

Group C Schedule (all times Eastern)

- Poland, Nov. 22, 11 a.m.

- Argentina, Nov. 26, 2 p.m.

- Saudi Arabia, No. 30, 2 p.m.


Gerardo “Tata” Martino, hired in January 2019

Mexico star Hirving Lozano is headed to the World Cup

Hirving Lozano (22) leads Mexico at the 2022 World Cup.

Players to Watch

Hirving “Chucky” Lozano, forward

Lozano announced himself on the global stage with an iconic goal to beat Germany in 2018. He’s battled injury the last couple years at Italian side Napoli and didn’t impact much in qualifying, but Lozano is Mexico’s most dynamic forward. His pace and creativity make him dangerous even when his team isn’t dominating possession.

Edson Álvarez, midfielder

Four years with perennial Dutch champion Ajax has garnered Álvarez interest from top teams around Europe. The defensive-minded midfielder is an excellent ball-winner and has started to produce more in the attack in recent years as well.

Guillermo Ochoa, goalkeeper

Ochoa went from rotation goalkeeper to cult hero in Brazil, where his outstanding performance in a draw against the 2014 World Cup hosts cemented his status as the first choice in goal for years to come. The 37-year-old helped his side to massive group-stage results in each of the last two World Cups. Mexico could use some more of his magic in Qatar.

Mexico winger Alexis Vega

Vega could find himself playing a vital role for a Mexico attack beset by injuries and omissions.

Breakout Candidate

Alexis Vega, winger

Vega, 24, has an opportunity to prove himself in Qatar. With Tecatito Corona missing the tournament due to injury, Raúl Jiménez not at full health and Martino omitting young attackers like Diego Lainez and Santiago Giménez, he may be the starter on the wing opposite of Lozano. 

Vega is in very solid form for both club and country—he scored in each of his last two matches played for El Tri and scored twice in just six starts in qualifying. Vega has quick feet and a knack for keeping the ball while under duress. Although he’s not the fastest winger, he still has the potential to be deadly on the counterattack by cutting in from the left onto his favored right foot. 

This World Cup is key for Vega—a number of European clubs, including Jiménez’s Wolves, are reportedly interested in the winger. A strong performance on the global stage could help him secure a coveted move to one of the world’s best leagues.

How to Watch: Mexico’s World Cup Schedule

World Cup History

- 17th appearance

- Last appearance: 2018, Round of 16

- Best finish: Quarterfinals in 1970 and 1986

Outlook and Expectations

As it has been for decades now, the hope for Mexico’s trip to the World Cup lies in the infamous “quinto partido.” El Tri has reached the knockout stage in seven consecutive World Cups, only to be bounced in the round of 16 each time. Unlikely wins in the group stage haven’t translated to success in the win-or-go-home games. Most recently, Lozano starred in a victory over reigning champs Germany before a 2–0 loss to Brazil ended Mexico’s 2018 campaign.

A run to that elusive fifth match won’t be simple. If El Tri makes it through a group featuring Argentina, Poland and Saudi Arabia, a matchup with reigning champion France could await. Regardless, anything short of an eighth straight knockout stage appearance will be seen as disastrous and likely usher in a new era without Martino and many of the aging starters.

World Cup Squad

GOALKEEPERS: Rodolfo Cota (León), Guillermo Ochoa (Club América), Alfredo Talavera (Juárez)

DEFENDERS: Kevin Álvarez (Pachuca), Néstor Araujo (Club América), Gerardo Arteaga (Genk), Jesús Gallardo (Monterrey), César Montes (Monterrey), Héctor Moreno (Monterrey), Jorge Sánchez (Ajax), Johan Vásquez (Cremonese)

MIDFIELDERS: Edson Álvarez (Ajax), Roberto Alvarado (Chivas Guadalajara), Uriel Antuna (Cruz Azul), Luis Chávez (Pachuca), Andrés Guardado (Real Betis), Érick Gutiérrez (PSV Eindhoven), Héctor Herrera (Houston Dynamo), Orbelín Pineda (AEK Athens), Carlos Rodríguez (Cruz Azul), Luis Romo (Monterrey)

FORWARDS: Hirving Lozano (Napoli), Raúl Jiménez (Wolverhampton), Henry Martín (Club América), Rogelio Funes Mori (Monterrey), Alexis Vega (Chivas Guadalajara)

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