Former Mexican national team coach Ricardo La Volpe is often credited with little more than adding to El Tri's lore with his colorful ties emblazoned with dragons, supposedly worn by La Volpe to keep bad spirits away whenever the national team was on the pitch. Further, he is remembered as a villain who left controversial forward Cuauhtemoc Blanco out of the 2006 World Cup roster due to their personal rivalry.
However, it is rarely noted that La Volpe did something for El Tri that was not equaled before he took over the team's reins in 2003 or since he bowed out in 2006: lead Mexico through a stress-free World Cup qualifying tournament.
Heading into the Hexagonal, current El Tri coach Jose Manuel de la Torre aims to improve on La Volpe's lofty qualification numbers -- and thus far he certainly has proved more than capable while leading Mexico's golden generation.
According to ESPN's Soccer Power Index (see table on right), Mexico is a virtual lock to make the World Cup based on its performance thus far. Matches that in the past would have seemed like budgeted losses -- such as the away game in Columbus, Ohio -- now seem in reach for a team that has yet to lose an official match under Chepo de la Torre.
Let's take a look at why Mexico is the No. 1 team in the Hex and how the rest of the standings will look.