Mexico’s players in Europe in the spotlight ahead of Qatar
Like all other World Cup teams, Mexico will be hoping their national team stars will be in top form when the event kicks off in Qatar at the end of November, an unprecedented “winter” World Cup.
Members of El Tri in Europe – as well as candidates still being considered for a spot on the Mexican roster – are currently in training camp and/or pre-season tour while those playing in Liga MX are already there. four games into their season.
Unlike European leagues, the Liga MX season will end before the inauguration of the World Cup, giving some players from the Mexican team almost a month to prepare. Those from the European leagues will arrive around 10 days before their opening group stage game against Poland.
Either way, Mexican fans are eager to see their European contingent play well, so here’s a quick look at what’s going on with some of these potential World Cup heroes.
Front line attackers for Mexico and “The Machine”
Mexico coach Gerardo Martino looks set to open with an attacking trident led by Raúl Jiménez (Wolverhampton), Hirving Lozano (Napoli) and Jesús Corona (Sevilla).
All three can expect to enjoy ample playing time at their respective clubs. ‘Chucky’ Lozano has been linked with a move to the English Premier League, but even if the speedy winger does move to West Ham United he can expect to see plenty of action.
With this trio safe in their positions – as long as they avoid injury – there is reasonable hope that they will arrive in Qatar fully fit.
Another Mexican starter in a similar position is midfielder Bulldog Edson “El Machín” Álvarez. The América product played Eredivisie champions Ajax last season and will surely log plenty more minutes this season. El Tri fans have full confidence in their midfielder.
The only possible problem is if his former manager – Erik ten Hag, now with Manchester United – successfully recruits him. A move to the EPL might cut into his playing time a bit, but even so, he’s a surefire starter for Mexico.
Mexico roster rank and record
Veteran longtime El Tri captain Andrés Guardado is likely to earn a place in the squad but is no longer considered a 90-minute man. ‘El Principito’ will likely see plenty of playing time with Real Betis in La Liga. That, added to his experience and physical condition, would make him a valuable asset to Martino.
Midfielder Erick Gutiérrez played 25 games last season at PSV Eindhoven, his most since joining the Dutch powerhouse in 2018. Eredivisie last season (he saw just 1,638 minutes of league action in the previous three seasons).
This week, a story circulated linking ‘Guti’ to Bundesliga, La Liga and Premier League teams. While that would be great for his long-term career, one wonders if he would worry about a lack of playing time with a new team right now. As things stand, if his game continues to develop under new PSV coach Ruud van Nistelrooy, ‘Guti’ could claim a starting spot with El Tri.
Olympic bronze medalist Johan Vásquez enjoyed a successful debut season in Serie A with Genoa, but after the club’s relegation, the The 23-year-old defender has booked a transfer to newly promoted Cremonese. Vásquez will surely continue his studies in Italy and strong performances could potentially earn him a starting spot (Martino had the ear to stay with veterans Néstor Araujo and Héctor Moreno instead of pairing Vásquez with his El Tri Olímpico teammate César go up).
Left-back Gerardo Arteaga is coming off a terrific season with Belgian club Genk, so at the start of the month The Spanish press linked him to LaLiga teams, as well as some mid-level English Premier League clubs. Arteaga, 23, has a strong chance of starting in Qatar and looks to have a long European career ahead of him.
Orbelín Pineda moved to Celta from Vigo in January and appears to have scuttled his World Cup chances as manager Eduardo Coudet rarely called him on the bench. As the new season approaches, Coudet has made it clear that he still has no intention of using ‘El Maguito’ and since coach Martino has made it clear that he will only call players who attend the action, Pineda risked seeing his invitation to the World Cup. revoked.
Last week, Pineda – a frantic and smart playmaker who helped Cruz Azul win the Guardianes 2021 Liga MX title – organized a move to AEK Athens. With the Greek club being coached by Matías Almeyda – Pineda’s coach in Guadalajara for three years – Orbelín will surely have plenty of opportunities to show off.
Two on the bubble, and a long shot
Diego Lainez moved from America to Real Betis to much fanfare in 2019. He was just 18 and big things were predicted. More than three years later, fame continues to elude the little southpaw. In fact, he regressed.
Lainez only came off the bench seven times last season and this week Betis coach Manuel Pellegrini has dropped the Tabasco native from his pre-season travel list, indicating that the devious playmaker was not in his plans. Betis will want to loan Lainez out this season as he is under contract for two more years. A loan is probably the only way for Lainez to see enough action to make the Mexican roster.
Teenage sensation Marcelo Flores has an outside chance of being selected by Gerardo Martino, especially after getting playing time with El Tri at the start of the summer. Under contract at Arsenal, the 18-year-old has just been loaned to Real Oviedo, a Spanish second division club, where he should be the central point of their attack. If Flores shines in La Liga 2, it wouldn’t be surprising to see him join Mexico in Qatar.
Santi Muñoz is another Mexican wonderkid paid by an English Premier League club. The 19-year-old striker joined Newcastle United last year but has only seen action with the club’s Under-23 side. On Friday it was announced that Muñoz was invited to train with the senior team before the EPL season.
Santi is not on Martino’s radar at the moment, and even if he manages to stay with the senior team, he is unlikely to get enough playing time to earn a place in Qatar. Nevertheless, Mexico fans will follow the progress of the Santos Laguna product.