Miguel Herrera continues to insist that Mexico came make it all the way to the Copa America final, as he prepares for the start of El Tri’s campaign in what he has described as a “must-win” game against Bolivia.
Mexico also face the challenge of the Concacaf Gold Cup next month, when they will aim to regain Concacaf superiority and earn a playoff with rivals the United States to go to the 2017 Confederations Cup. And with that competition a clear priority, the squad in Chile is missing a number of its better known players. Indeed, only one member of the lineup that took on the Netherlands in the World Cup last year will start against Bolivia in Viña del Mar, with European-based stars like Javier “Chicharito” Hernández, Hector Herrera and Giovani dos Santos reserved for the Gold Cup. Herrera, though, has continued to defend the quality of the players he does have at his disposal.
“Mexico is the only squad in the world that luckily has the possibility of playing in two tournaments from two different confederations [other than Jamaica],” he said at a press conference. “That’s why we must have two teams. But in no way is this a B team. The players that are here come with the will to go all the way to the final and win in it, that’s or goal.”
It has been a tough buildup for Mexico, with a draw against Peru being followed by a comprehensive defeat to Brazil. And there has been controversy off the pitch, too, with Herrera reportedly being disciplined after sending tweets in support of a political party on the day of elections in Mexico.
As is Herrera’s way, he has named his starting lineup, or almost all of it, a day ahead of the match. And there is a surprise in there, too, with Atlético Madrid striker Raul Jiménez, one of just four players in the squad based away from Liga MX, left out. Instead Eduardo “Lalo” Herrera and 33-year-old Argentine-born Matías Vuoso will start up front. Elsewhere there is an expected place in midfield for a potential star of the largely inexperienced side, Jesús “Tecatito” Corona, alongside Juan Carlos Medina and either Javier Güemez or Mario Osuna. Tasked with leading the side and a defense also featuring Julio “Cata” Domínguez and Hugo Ayala is 36-year-old captain Rafael Márquez. Jesús Corona gets the nod in goal, with Gerardo Flores and Adrian Aldrete selected as the two wing-backs.
With matches against hosts Chile and a well-equipped Ecuador side upcoming for Mexico, Herrera has made no bones about that fact that his team needs to hit the ground running if they are to make it out of their group.
“It is a match that we must win,” he said. “If we want to go further from the group stage we must win, it will be hard but we will go out for victory.”
Getting out of the group is something that Bolivia have not done at a Copa America since hosting the tournament, and reaping the benefits of playing at high altitude, in 1997. Indeed, they haven’t won a single match at the tournament since then and haven’t won a match of any description away from home in more than eight years.
Bolivia’s preparations for this Copa America have hardly been ideal, either. On Saturday, the team were beaten 5-0 by Argentina, after which head coach Mauricio Soria stated that there was still much work to do before the tournament proper gets underway.
“What alarms me more than the physical and technical [aspects] are other factors that I must speak with the guys about to improve,” he said, according to the official Copa America website. “There are things to look at very deeply in order to do what we want with this national team.”
Kickoff time: 7:30 p.m. EDT
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