Last Friday, Mexico national team coach Jose Manuel De La Torre released the names of the Europe-based players whom he will call up for the team’s World Cup Qualifiers on September 6 and 10 against Honduras and the United States.
Six players based in Europe were called up and while many called for Carlos Vela to be included, he predictably was not. The other surprise omission was in the form of Ajaccio goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa.
As news of Ochoa’s omission started to settle in, many began to speculate why he was not on the call-up list. Eventually, De La Torre came out and stated that Ochoa told him would rather not be called up if he was not guaranteed to be the starting goalkeeper. Because De La Torre is not a coach who guarantees any player a starting out of principle, it made his decision to leave Ochoa out an easy one.
After a few days of letting the news settle in, it is clear to me and to a majority of Mexican fans that he is wrong, and his decision was very short-sighted. Understanding that Ochoa has been one of the best goalkeepers in Europe for the past two seasons and been the sole reason his club stayed in Ligue 1, I can see why he may feel “entitled” to be the starter for the Mexican national team.
Still, Ochoa is wrong to demand that he be guaranteed starting goalkeeper job on several grounds. For starters, despite how well he plays, Ochoa has hurt his chances of being the undisputed best in the past by having made critical mistakes at critical moments for the national team.
Going back to the 2010 World Cup cycle, Ochoa made some mistakes which a goalkeeper of his skill level should not make in a friendly game several months before the World Cup, which shook the confidence of then-coach Javier Aguirre and saw Ochoa relegated the backup goalkeeper role.
In addition to shooting himself in the foot at key moments, Ochoa is also wrong because whether he wants to accept it or not, the current no. 1 for Mexico, Jesus Corona, is just as good if not better than him. Since Corona has stopped self-sabotaging his career by doing something dumb, his play has allowed him to earn and take hold of the starting goalkeeper job for the Mexican national team.
Therefore, Ochoa must accept that his main challenger is just as deserving as he is.
Very few players can be said to be guaranteed starters on their national teams. Guillermo Ochoa is not one of them. His decision to not accept the call-up for the World Cup Qualifiers looks petty, selfish, short-sighted, and is the wrong decision. Real competitors understand the situation at hand and still are willing to fight for what they want. Hopefully for Mexico, Ochoa realizes this and does a mea culpa.