Injuries threaten to derail Mexico’s World Cup aspirations

Tata Martino looked tired and tired as he swayed behind the microphone at a press conference earlier this week. The Mexico national football team coach has less than two months left to prepare for the World Cup, yet he has many more questions than answers about the list he will take to Qatar.

straight ahead Rogelio Funes Morey Midfielder Hector Herrera has not played for their club’s teams in over a month while dealing with thigh injuries. straight ahead Raul Jimenez (groin area) and midfielder Luis Romo (groin) Gabba more than two weeks. Alexis Vega (knee) limped while another striker, JI’m Manuel CoronaLast month, he fractured his left leg bone and torn the ligaments in his left ankle and got out.

These six players have a combined 328 matches of international experience, but only Vega will have the chance to play in Saturday’s friendly against Peru at the Rose Bowl, the first of Mexico’s two World Cup qualifiers in California. How many will play in Qatar is unknown.

This is bad news for a team that has been disqualified four times in the last seven games.

“Thirty days ago, I never thought we’d be in this situation,” Martino, who appears to have turned a decade old last year, said through an interpreter. “We have to pay attention to it as the time approaches … the start of the World Cup.”

These injuries are the latest in a series of problems that have befallen Martino and his team. Mexico lost its last two World Cup qualifiers last year, then played its first two qualifiers at home this year without fans, as punishment for fans continuing to use anti-gay chants.

In July, after the under-20 team failed to qualify for the 2024 Olympics, the Mexican Federation, in search of a scapegoat, forced sporting director Gerardo Torrado, among others. It was a bold, even reckless, move so close to the finals – and Martino admitted joining Torrado in resigning.

His resignation was not accepted, but his contract expires after the World Cup and it is clear that Martino will not return. So the coach took off his gloves and started beating critics in the Mexican press and elsewhere.

“Please don’t fire me. Still here, okay?” he joked at one point during a 25-minute press conference in which he answered questions and criticism confidently but defiantly.

Mexican striker Rogelio Funes Mori celebrated after scoring against Honduras during the first half of the CONCACAF Gold Cup match in July 2021. Funes Mori is among the injured players for Mexico.

(Rick Scuteri/The Associated Press)

“I am in a situation where it is very difficult not to have obstacles, ups and downs, because leading a national team involves everything. There is no way to do this job without obstacles.” “But I learned something. It is very difficult to change something that, in my opinion, can make Mexican football better.

“There are some places where my suggestions or recommendations don’t go forward. There are other people who can make recommendations to improve Mexican football, and in my opinion they could have done a lot for it. But no. It’s the same feeling I had from day one. That’s what it means.” To be a coach for a national team.

Martino has few tools and valuable time to turn things around because he must present the World Cup roster by November 13, nine days before the team’s opening match with Poland. Mexico will also play with Argentina and Saudi Arabia in the group stage.

So he is looking for quick solutions.

With Jimenez, Funes Morey and Corona outside the club America‘s Henry Martin and 21 years old Santiago Jimenez From Feyenoord, who is yet to play a competitive international, will take a long look at the striker, possibly playing alongside winger Hirving Lozano.

We are working to reach [World Cup] Lozano, one of 11 professional European players on Mexico’s 31-player roster, said in Spanish. Part of the problem is with the national team, you don’t have much time to work. But we are trying to reach that level.”

Lozano was the second youngest player in the Mexican national team when he scored the only goal in the 1-0 win over holders Germany in the opening match of the 2018 World Cup. Now, with many players sidelined, he is the captain of the team. 58 caps is by far the most among healthy strikers.

“There are moments when I feel more mature as a footballer, more mature mentally, more mature as a human being. And that makes me better, doesn’t it?” said Lozano, 27, who has spent the past four years with PSV Eindhoven in the Eredivisie and with Napoli in Italy. “I grew up a lot in Holland, I grew a lot in Italy. So I feel good.”

For those whose place in the World Cup is not guaranteed, the next six weeks, which begin with Saturday’s game against Peru, will be tough.

“I’m a little nervous. Also worried because I want to see what happens. Will I go or not?” Chivas midfielder Fernando Beltran, 24, who is hoping to make his first team at the World Cup, said in Spanish shivering on a cold evening.

When asked if the shivering was due to cold or nerves, he laughed.

He said: “Nerves.” “This is the dream of every footballer.”

After Saturday, Mexico will play three more friendlies before leaving for Qatar, where they face Colombia on Tuesday in Santa Clara, then meet Iraq and Sweden in November in Girona, Spain.