Guillermo Ochoa will start in goal for Mexico in their opening game of the 2014 World Cup against Cameroon on Friday, in the only surprise in Miguel Herrera’s starting lineup. As he has done before each match since taking charge last year, Herrera named his lineup on Twitter the day before the match. In the only change to the team picked for the final warm up game against Portugal last week, Ochoa has gotten the nod over Jesus Corona.
“I am happy to be here and reach a personal goal,” Ochoa said after Thursday's training session, according to ESPN. “I am lucky to have the coach's backing. I am a bit tense, the wait was long, but there is nothing more to do than work.”
“It will be a very important day in my career. Now is the time to focus and to think about a win over Cameroon. I see myself playing through to the final, where we want to be and we will get to where we want to be. Cameroon is the most important right now. The key match is tomorrow.”
The 10 outfield players are as expected. Francisco “Maza” Rodriguez will start alongside Rafa Marquez and Hector Moreno in a back three, with Miguel Layun and Paul Aguilar as the wing-backs. A midfield three of Jose Juan Vazquez, Andres Guardado and Hector Herrera will start behind a front two of Giovani dos Santos and Oribe Peralta.
After a torrid qualifying campaign and a buildup to the tournament that saw injuries to Juan Carlos Medina and Luis Montes, Mexico will be desperate to get off to a positive start at the World Cup. It could be vital, too, with matches to come in Group A against hosts Brazil and a talented Croatia side.
Cameroon will doubtless be of the same mindset. But coach Volker Finke has had far from ideal preparations to the match after Cameroon’s flight to Brazil was delayed by a players’ revolt against the amount of bonuses paid by the country’s football federation.
Since their breakthrough in 1990, when they became the first team from Africa to reach the quarterfinals of a World Cup, Cameroon have failed to make it out of the group stage in four attempts. Their hopes of doing so this time around will again rest heavily on the shoulders of Samuel Eto’o. The 33-year-old will be playing in the tournament for the fourth time, and has been directly involved in his country’s last four goals in the competition, scoring three and assisting the other.
But the player, who will be a free agent upon leaving Chelsea this summer, has also been at the heart of the country’s problems off the pitch in recent years. He announced his retirement from the international arena during qualifying, reportedly after a dispute with Finke about team selections. That decision was quickly reversed and Eto’o played a part in Cameroon beating Tunisia to reach the finals.
Mexico’s Starting XI
D: Rodriguez, Marquez, Moreno
M: Aguilar, Herrera, Vazquez, Guardado, Layun
F: Dos Santos, Peralta