International Friendly Preview: Mexico v Israel
The North American nation were widely expected to cruise through the CONCACAF qualifying procedure, but after an unblemished record in the group stage, wound up relying on a play-off victory over New Zealand.
Mexico won just two of their 10 matches in the fourth round of qualifying as United States, Costa Rica and Honduras all beat them to the automatic routes to Brazil.
Miguel Herrera was brought in prior to the November play-off to steer Mexico to the World Cup, becoming the nation’s fourth coach of 2013.
A 9-3 aggregate triumph over the Pacific nation let Mexico off the hook somewhat, but marked the beginning of Herrera’s rebuilding project.
Having taken the job exactly one month before that match, Herrera will not have had much of an opportunity to put his own stamp on the squad, but three friendlies since the turn of the year will have given the coach a clearer picture of his best starting XI.
The introduction of a new 5-3-2 formation has garnered mixed results against fellow World Cup outfits – a 4-0 demolition of South Korea was followed by 0-0 and 2-2 draws against Nigeria and the United States respectively.
Herrera has just 270 minutes to refine his gameplan and will hope to find the likes of Oribe Peralta, Giovani Dos Santos and Javier Hernandez in top form, with Peralta having scored five of his side’s nine goals in the World Cup play-off.
Israel are unlikely to provide the sternest of opposition as Mexico’s World Cup build-up gets under way and are without a win in their last six fixtures.
That said, Eli Guttman’s men have found the net in their last five matches, so the Mexican defence will need to be alert to that danger.
Herrera is said to have banned players from having sex during the forthcoming tournament, but his side could be left flirting with an early exit if they fail to find form against Israel and in subsequent friendlies with Ecuador, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Portugal.
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