Copa America: Mexico’s Redemption

Mexico’s “B” squad has a chance at redemption, when they face Ecuador in their final Copa America group stage game, to rectify mistakes made in 2011 by the Mexican federation, when they sent their Under-22 Olympic team to Argentina to compete in the Copa America. The results of that tournament were disastrous as Mexico went on to lose all three group stage games and only managed to score one goal in the tournament before bowing out, failing to reach the quarter finals of the Copa America for the first time in their eight appearances. The CONCACAF team is one win against Ecuador and a result in the Chile v. Bolivia game away from qualifying to the tournament’s quarterfinals.

Coming into the Copa America, Coach Miguel Herrera was criticized for saying that Mexico has no “A” or “B” squads, there is only one squad and that is the group that is on the field.   Leaving big names out such as Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez, Giovani Dos Santos, Andres Guardado and Hector Herrera out of the Copa America team seemed to indicate that Mexico was not putting a full effort in the South American cup. However, unlike in 2011, this group of players is battle-tested players who have had stints with the senior national team and have proven in their leagues that they are quality players. Captain Rafael Marquez has over 100 caps for the national team, along with having played in four World Cups and in Europe’s biggest clubs, striker Raul Jimenez won the Liga MX Clausura with Club America in 2013 and relayed his success to a move to Spain to play for the defending Liga champions at the time, Atletico Madrid and goalkeeper Jesus Corona has been on the national team since 2005, but never been the number one keeper, finally at age 34 he is leading his nation in a major international tournament. There are promising players such as Marco Fabian, Javier Aquino and Jesus Manuel “Tecatito” Corona who are becoming national team staples as well.

The 2011 squad featured one player currently on this year’s Copa America squad, Javier Aquino and featured six players currently on the Gold Cup preliminary squad, including Giovani Dos Santos, Oribe Peralta and Paul Aguilar. Unfortunately outside of Dos Santos and Aguilar at the time, the remaining 21 players had only 37 caps among them. Fast forward to the 2015 roster, only 11 players have less than ten caps on the roster, and four of those eleven have started the first two games in the tournament for Mexico. Vicente Matias Vuoso has already had an impressive tournament after two games; the 33-year-old Argentinian born striker is making Herrera look like a genius. He scored two goals against Chile, including the game tying third goal for Mexico. Players such as 29 year old right back Gerardo Flores and 31 year old midfielder Juan Carlos Medina have plenty of experience in Liga MX, but both only have 13 caps, each, for the national team, while starting both of Mexico’s first two group games.

Herrera said that Mexico’s goals this summer were to make the semi finals of the Copa America and to win the Gold Cup. “We should be solid against any adversity…We continue with aspirations of reaching the semifinals and then getting to the final.” Was what he told Many perhaps snickered a bit when hearing these lofty aspirations once the 2015 roster was announced and their opening goalless draw against Bolivia didn’t help matters much. However, their 3-3 tie against tournament hosts Chile and Bolivia’s thrashing of Ecuador have put the quarterfinals within reach. Mexico currently sits with two points, trailing Bolivia and Chile, both have four points, with a win over Ecuador, Mexico could just about guarantee a position in the quarterfinals.

Should Mexico make the Copa America quarterfinals, it would be quite an achievement for a “B” squad, however, Herrera expects nothing less of that semi final appearance for a team looking to regain their continental power as one of the top teams in North and South America.