DOHA (AP) — When Mexico hired Gerardo Martino, they didn’t do it with only the goal of qualifying them for another World Cup. They bet on the experience of the Argentine coach to lead them to the long-awaited fifth game that the country has been denied since 1986.
Twelve years after leading Paraguay to the quarterfinals at South Africa 2010, Martino will have his first test at Qatar 2022 when he faces Poland on Tuesday.
Since it was host in 1986, Mexico has reached the second round in all the World Cups, except Italy 1990 where it did not participate due to a FIFA punishment. Four Mexican, one Argentine and one Colombian coaches have failed to reach the quarterfinals since then.
“I have the feeling that we are going to compete very well, we have not prepared for that and the players are aware of it,” said Martino, who has been criticized for the recent performance of the team. “From the inside out there is a scenario that does not exist outside and that gives us hope and certainty that we are going to compete well.”
The environment close to Martino affirms that the coach likes to make strong and united work groups. Perhaps that is why he decided to keep the same base, something that worked for him when in South Africa 2010 he led the Paraguayans to the penultimate stage, succumbing to the eventual champion Spain.
That Paraguayan team bet more on the collective than on individualities, and that is something that the Mexicans have worked on.
“What I see differently now is that we have a person, a leader within the team who already knows what it’s like to play that fifth game,” captain and midfielder Andrés Guardado told ESPN. , that maybe they didn’t believe much in you, but that you got it. I think that mentally that has permeated the group”.
In addition to reviewing videos of Paraguay in South Africa 2010, Martino has shown other mistakes made by Mexico in past World Cups that cost them the chance to go further, all so that now the players are more focused.
That maximum concentration should start from the first day because the Mexicans are going to face Robert Lewandowski, one of the most lethal center forwards of the moment.
Martino, who took over from Colombian Juan Carlos Osorio in January 2019, had an impressive start to his management with 19 wins and just one loss in his first 22 games. Then, in the middle of last year, Martino himself admits that the operation of the Tri was diluted. Regardless, Mexico qualified second in CONCACAF.
“Our goal, like every World Cup, is to be in the ‘Top 8’, that is, in the quarterfinals,” said president Yon de Luisa, who minimized the team’s downturn in football.
For the World Cup, the Mexicans will not be able to count on striker Jesús Corona, who injured his ankle at the start of the season with Sevilla in Spain. Their center forward Raúl Jiménez reappeared midweek after two and a half months of inactivity due to groin pain.
“I feel excited, wanting to face this challenge, the same ones I have had since day one, I don’t have any negative feelings today because the only thing that worries me is how we are doing and we are doing well,” said Martino. “There is nothing that today modifies this feeling that we are going to do very well, there are no ghosts.”
Against Poland, Martino has said that it will be difficult for him to use the Wolverhampton striker, so the door is open for Rogelio Funes Mori or Henry Martín, who are the other nine available.
In a controversial decision, Martino dispensed with the historical scorer Javier Hernández and also Santiago Giménez, who leads the scoring table in the current edition of the Europa League.
Hernández was punished for indiscipline committed in September 2019 and Giménez did not play the qualifiers.
Mexico will have to take precautions against the direct play of Poland, which reached its ninth World Cup through the European playoffs.
The Poles closed their preparations with a 1-0 victory over Chile, in a match in which coach Czesław Michniewicz left out several key players, including goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny, striker Piotr Zielinski and Lewandowski.
“Mexico has a lot of quality, we know their potential,” Lewandowski said. “We will fight to win and we will do our best, they have a lot of quality, rhythm and they are dynamic, we are going to have to be ready to stop them or we are going to have problems.”