Chicharito Hernandez Headlines El Tri at the Confederations Cup

It was Giovani Dos Santos’ perfectly chipped ball into an upper right corner of a sprawling Tim Howard’s net, just centimeters above the head of U.S. defender Eric Lichaj that sent El Tri to this year’s edition of the FIFA Confederations Cup in Brazil.

But that Gold Cup Final was two years ago, and this Mexican National Team is much different. The red, white, and green will be looked at through a scrutinizing lens throughout the tournament due to their lackluster performances in the World Cup Qualifiers. So far, Chepo de la Torres’ Mexico has tied five of six games, scoring only three goals, while winless in the breathtaking Estadio Azteca, a fortress so powerful that Mexico has only left the pitch once with a loss in CONCACAF WCQ history.

This 2013 FIFA Confederations Cup will be a nice way for Mexico to eliminate all this baggage they bring with them to Brazil. The only problem for them is that they were drawn into the group of death consisting of hosts, Brazil, AFC Champions, Japan, and UEFA runners-up, Italy. Only the top two will advance to the semifinals in Fortaleza or Belo Horizonte, so Mexico’s game will have to be tip-top for them to pass through to the next round.

Javier “Chicharito” Hernández is Mexico’s superstar by name, but he hasn’t been playing like one. Struggling to find the goal with the Mexican national team in this final hexagonal, Chicharito must step his game up and do what he was born to do: score goals in any way possible. Be it by rebounding, by headers, by shots inside the box, the Manchester United striker will have to score goals to bring back the bronze, silver, or gold.

On the defensive end, it’s Jesus Corona who has been the actual superstar for the Mexican national team. Due to the poor form of his squad, the Cruz Azul goalkeeper is a great asset for the Mexicans to bring to Brazi. Most recently, Corona rescued El Tri from what would have been a bitter loss in Kingston, Jamaica against the Reggae Boys. Lately, Corona’s game-saving performances have crowned him the best goalkeeper in Mexico over the likes of Memo Ochoa and Alfredo Talavera. A historically polemic battle on the national team, three talented goalkeepers fight for the starting position, but Jesus Corona has proved himself superior to his teammates.

Mexico’s backline adds to the defensive success El Tri has experienced recently. Carlos Salcido, Javier Francisco Rodríguez, Hector Moreno, and Severo Meza have only received two goals in their six WCQ games. All except for the right back Meza have had European experience in either Germany, Holland, England, or Spain. Despite their foreign participation, the back line has appeared shaky at times in the CONCACAF hexagonal. Now they will face quicker, bigger, and wiser forwards like Stephan El Shaarawy, Mario Balotelli, and all the samba strikers on the Brazilian national team. A true test of timely tackles and intuitive man marking lies ahead for this Mexican backline in Brazil.

Where most of Mexico’s problems stem from is the midfield. The descending form of Valencia’s Andrés Guardado has been no help on the left wing, as well as Pablo Barrera and Javier Aquino’s ineffective play on the right. But what this team truly lacks is a playmaker, a true 10. Giovani Dos Santos has struggled to fulfill his role as the team’s playmaker. After a good season with Mallorca in La Liga, it’s odd that Gio hasn’t been that quick-on-his-feet, penetrating attacking midfielder he usually is. And of course, when the playmaker fails the players on the other end like Chicharito or Aldo de Nigris suffer.

With Chepo de la Torres job on the line, it will be interesting to see how Mexico’s campaign in the 2013 FIFA Confederations Cup plays out. They are not the favorites to qualify out of their group, but with a reversal of attitude and mindset, this Mexican National Team can definitely prove to be a North American powerhouse. The players are there, but from one week to another can El Tri make a 180-degree change and play like CONCACAF champions?

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