Potential qualifying hurdles for El Tri
Once upon a time a Mexico manager speaking of lifting the World Cup before the Hexagonal stage of qualifying had even begun would've drawn a deep, knowing sigh from Mexico fans. They've heard it all before, every four years. They know the drill: Qualify, scrape through the group stage, put up a bold but ultimately futile performance in the Round of 16 and get the first flight back to Mexico City's Benito Juarez International Airport.
But when coach Jose Manuel "Chepo" de la Torre said on Oct. 24 that, "We can't lose sight that our dream is be world champions in Brazil," it has a different feel, especially when he tempered his comment, "But we can't begin talking about that when we haven't qualified, we have to be very clear about that."
It neatly summed up the nice balance Mexico has struck at the moment, pitting flagrant ambition with a sense of humility. Following Wednesday's kind CONCACAF Hexagonal draw, there will rightly be a sense of confidence in the Mexico camp that El Tri can top the group and make a real statement heading toward Brazil 2014, but doing so is unlikely to be taken for granted and will have to be earned against teams desperate just to be in Brazil.
What are some potential hurdles for Mexico in qualifying?
First, let's look at the positives. On balance, the Hexagonal draw and schedule are good for El Tri, as the Mexican federation (FMF) president Justin Compean acknowledged straight after. The team is expected to win six of the first seven games, with the exception of the away trip to Honduras on March 22, and starts with what should be a gentle opener at home against Jamaica. Eighteen points from those seven should be easily enough to reserve the plane tickets to Brazil, while five wins from those first seven games would also put El Tri on the brink of qualification. The aim will be to get out the starting blocks quickly.