Mexico is 2018 World Cup sleeper

Why El Tri has a real shot to make a run in the next World Cup

Updated: July 18, 2014, 1:57 PM ET
By Adrian Melville | ESPN Insider

AP Photo/Petr David JosekMiguel Herrera has an eccentric personality but did a great job leading Mexico in 2014.

The Liga MX Apertura begins on Friday, and as a country, Mexico will look to continue building on the generation of players who were designed to make the country a global power. Many of the players who helped the team capture a U-17 World Cup in 2011, along with an Olympic Gold medal in 2012, are now in the prime of their careers. 

A strong defensive showing in the 2014 tournament, combined with an impressive pipeline of upcoming talent in El Tri's attack, gives manager Miguel Herrera a lot of flexibility in the team that he assembles four years from now.

After a crushing defeat to the Netherlands in the round of 16, the odds at the LVH Superbook have Mexico at 50-1 to win the 2018 World Cup, but I believe they should be much higher. 

With a mix of young talent and established veterans, here's why Mexico is a sleeper to win the 2018 World Cup.

A solid defense

Similar to the United States, Mexico goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa became the star of his team by making tremendous saves throughout the tournament. His six saves against Brazil were the highlight, and over the course of four games, Ochoa established himself as a valuable commodity in the transfer market.

Just ahead of Ochoa, central defender Hector Moreno, who had a promising World Cup cut short by a broken tibia in the team's round of 16 game against the Netherlands, is the future of the Mexican back line. The Espanyol central defender was agile, calm and quick with his decision-making, and his timely tackling was also helpful in Mexico conceding just 3.3. shots on target per game (fifth lowest in World Cup). His defensive support was vital alongside an aging Rafa Marquez on the back line.

ESPN Stats & InformationHeat map of Hector Moreno's tackles in 2014 World Cup, left, and Rafa Maruez's tackles, right.