On March 5, Mexico coach Miguel Herrera, like all 32 World Cup bound coaches, will get their one and only chance to have a look and give their potential starting elevens and fringe players a chance to impress in what is the only FIFA date between now and late May, early June, when teams begin to prepare for the 2014 World Cup. In what came as no surprise on Tuesday, Herrera released part of his call-up list for Mexico’s March 5 friendly against Nigeria, in which he will call up eight European-based players, with Carlos Vela being the only exception for obvious reasons.
The eight European-based Mexican players who were called up for the March 5 game are Javier Hernandez, Villarreal duo Giovani Dos Santos and Javier Aquino, Andres Guardado, Hector Moreno, FC Porto duo Diego Reyes and Hector Herrera, and goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa. Given that Herrera visited and spent some time with each player on a recent trip to Europe, their call ups for the game on March 5 came as no surprise.
The call-up of the European-based Mexican players is significant for a number of different reasons. First and foremost, it will be the first time any of them, with the exception of Reyes, will play with the Mexican National Team since Herrera took over as coach, first as an interim and now as the full-time coach.
The second significant point about the call-up of the European-based players is that unlike during the Manuel De La Torre era, the European-based players will not be expected to carry the load of expectations, but instead come in and complement the domestic based players.
The third significance of the call-ups of the European-based Mexican players is that Herrera and fans of ‘El Tri’ will get an idea of how each of these players will fit into Herrera’s tactical system, as well as whether or not they are viewed as a starter or a substitute come June 13 against Cameroon. For players like Reyes, Moreno and Dos Santos, it is likely that they are and will be starters for Herrera, with Reyes and Moreno as two of the three central defenders and Dos Santos as what is known as the media-punta (basically a withdrawn forward to floats as part forward, part attacking midfielder).
As for Aquino, Guardado and Hernandez, these players are likely to be bench players at this moment for Herrera, so in their case, their call-ups will be more to see how they understand and can adapt to Herrera’s tactical approach, as well as to how well they incorporate themselves into the group. But the most intriguing call-ups of these European-based players are the two whom right now appear to not be set to make the 23-man squad headed to Brazil, or will have to play their way onto the squad with their play on March 5.
Herrera is a fine midfielder who can play and serve multiple tactical roles at the holding midfield role. However, the fact is that right now, it is hard to see him leapfrogging either Juan Carlos Medina or Juan Jose Vasquez as holding midfielders while his lack of having dynamic qualities limits his attractiveness. That’s not to say he cannot make an impression on March 5 and combine that will regular play with Porto to play his way onto the squad, but it looks highly unlikely as of today.
As for Ochoa, it goes without saying that when it comes to being a shot stopping goalkeeper, he is currently one of the best, if not the best, Mexican goalkeeper at that. However, he has a few things working against him, which make his potential inclusion into the 23-man squad one that is very uncertain.
Mexico is blessed to have several quality options when it comes to goalkeepers, so other than being European-based, Ochoa is on par with a Jesus Corona. Additionally, goalkeepers under a Herrera coached team are expected to be able to play the ball with their feet, and unlike a Moises Munoz, for example, Ochoa struggles at this aspect of the game.