Entering the seventh round of games in CONCACAF World Cup Qualifying to be played on Friday, there is one game that stands out above the other two as a result of the implications involved with the standings. That game will be played at the famed Estadio Azteca in Mexico City as Mexico hosts Honduras in a game with a lot of talk and intrigue. The winner of the game would set themselves up to be in the drivers seat to gain automatic qualification for a World Cup spot next summer in Brazil.
Headed into the game, Mexico, who have not had a good campaign here in the final round of qualifying, sit in third with eight points while Honduras currently sit in fourth, the playoff spot with seven points. For Honduras, they are approaching this game with the mindset that all the pressure is on Mexico given their poor form so far in World Cup Qualifying, and because they will be playing at home. Expect Honduras to come out and play in a compact 4-5-1 formation with Carlos Costly as the lone forward/striker.
As for Mexico, while their World Cup Qualifying campaign here in the final round has been very poor and disappointing, they have a chance to continue and build off the positive momentum they created with their 4-1 victory against Ivory Coast in a friendly back on Aug. 14. What only not too long ago looked like a situation where coach Jose Manuel De La Torre was lacking any attacking options and tactical ability to create more attacking chances has since changed as the Mexican fans and media have been speculating who will start and who will come off the bench.
It is clear that Mexico will come out playing in a 4-2-3-1 formation. After that, there has been speculation as to who will make up the starting 11. Aside from goalkeeper Jesus Corona and central defender Hector Moreno, there are a few question marks as to who are the other starters along the back. At right fullback, it is clear De La Torre will be choosing between either Severo Meza or Hiram Mier, both players are teammates with Monterrey.
While Carlos Salcido is normally the starting leftback, some have suggested that if De La Torre wanted to really show he was being aggressive from the start, he could push Salcido up as one of the holding midfielders with Andres Guardado playing as the left fullback, a position he came up playing and he has played recently for his club Valencia CF. The final main question surrounding the Mexico starting 11 is does Javier ‘Chicharito’ Hernandez start or will he begin the game on the bench as a substitute?
While many would find this question puzzling, the fact is that the lack of playing time so far in the summer and beginning of the league season by Chicharito with Manchester United and that Oribe Peralta seems to give De La Torre more attacking options when Mexico are on the ball attacking has made this question a viable one. That said, we could see both play upfront given Peralta’s style of play allows for both to play off each other well, and this could see a player like Angel Reyna relegated to the bench as a viable attacking substitute if needed in the second half.
While it is a high-pressure game for Mexico given that the results up to this point, along with their play in the final round of qualifying, has been far below expectations. Signs so far this week point to the team doing some good things on Friday. The ambiance within and surrounding the team is very positive with all involve recognizing and clearly being comfortable with the pressure they have on them to win Friday.
While Honduras will do its best to frustrate Mexico and steal at least a point, I sense a Mexico team who will come out attack-minded and the change of mindset to play better. This game has the feeling of a 2-0 or 3-0 win for Mexico.