While the latest FIFA International date for games comes at what can be considered the most inopportune time of the soccer calendar — during the time Europe’s top leagues have either just started their league season or are going to be starting their league season — the August game(s) can be a headache. But for México, their August friendly against Ivory Coast (Cote d’Ivoire) represents something significant.
What it represents is a chance for coach Jose Manuel De La Torre to begin constructing a team that will make the final push in CONCACAF World Cup Qualifying to send México into next summer’s tournament. More importantly for De La Torre, the game presents him the first game since he was given a reprieve by the federation after a disastrous summer for him and the national team.
The squad list for the game against Cote d’Ivoire next Wednesday to be played in the Meadowlands in New Jersey contains several eye-catchers and a look at who could be featured on the squad list for the important World Cup Qualifiers to be played next month. The first thing to note is the absence of Manchester United forward Javier Hernandez, who will miss the game after picking up an injury during training.
The second eye-catcher of the squad list for the friendly against Cote d’Ivoire is the presence of two naturalized citizens: Christian Gimenez of Cruz Azul and Damian Alvarez of Tigres UNAL. A lot has been made of the potential call up of Gimenez to the national team for this game, as the issue of naturalized citizens playing for the Mexican national team is a touchy one with a vocal group who don’t like it, making their opinion clearly known.
The call up of Gimenez has come as no surprise given that once he completed the process of becoming a Mexican citizen, it was a given he was going to be drafted to a national team squad list. For Alvarez, this will be his second call up to the national team. Both players give De La Torre that midfield maestro that he wants to have, and it appears he has yet to find any younger players to add to this latest squad list.
In addition to the naturalized citizens, players like Oribe Peralta and Fernando Arce are recalled, as both were unable to play for the national team this summer due to injuries. The return of Peralta is significant because he appears to be a player whom De La Torre truly pencils in in any starting 11, and it could be argued that his presence was sorely missed, not allowing De La Torre to play how he would like to tactically.
Aside from the players mentioned above, players like defender Miguel Layun and midfielder Luis Montes have won themselves a call up on the back of being one of a few players who played well and were not criticized but instead lauded during a dreadful Gold Cup tournament for México. For Layun, the game will give him another chance to cement the starting right fullback spot as his for the upcoming qualifiers next month.
While August friendlies can just be a burdensome, for México it will represent a chance to hit the reset button and turn the page after a disappointing summer with important World Cup Qualifiers around the corner. The squad list reflects a desire to move on and look ahead while giving several players a chance to stake a claim in creating better days ahead for ‘El Tri.’