Despite having a long gap before the return of competitive action, Mexico coach Miguel Herrera has largely kept faith with the players that regained respect for the national side at the World Cup for Saturday’s friendly against Chile in Santa Clara, Calif. It is just two months since Arjen Robben controversially won a penalty that gave the Netherlands a dramatic victory to again end Mexico’s hopes at the World Cup in the Round of 16.
Perhaps surprisingly there were places in Herrera’s squad for veterans Francisco “Maza” Rodríguez and Carlos Salcido, before the latter subsequently announced his retirement from international duty. There is no place for Rafa Márquez, Javier Hernández and Raul Jiménez, although it is believed all three have been allowed time to adjust to recent transfers in Europe. In Marquez’s absence, the captain’s armband will go to Andrés Guardado, who will hope to keep it heading toward the next World Cup in Russia.
While there has been little experimenting by Herrera, he has called four players for the first time in Toluca midfielder Antonio Ríos, defender Oswaldo Alanis and striker Erick Torres. The Chivas USA star has scored 14 goals in Major League Soccer this season. Another first-time call cup is 30-year-old Atlas center-back Luis Venegas.
There are even fewer new faces in the Chile squad for what will be the first ever international soccer match at the new Levi’s Stadium. Coach Jorge Sampaoli has selected all the major names who helped them to the last 16 at the World Cup. It could have been so much more for Chile, which struck the crossbar through Mauricio Pinilla in the dying embers of extra time against Brazil before going onto lose in a penalty shootout. But there is little time to mourn that defeat or look too far ahead with Chile hosting the Copa America next year. For a country that has never won a major title, the 2015 South American championship represents perhaps its best opportunity after Sampaoli built on the work of former Chile coach Marcelo Bielsa in Brazil to produce a stirring but controlled side that ousted Spain in the group stage.
Alexis Sánchez will be involved in California following his summer move to Arsenal, while Claudio Bravo, who has secured a transfer to Sanchez’s former club Barcelona, will be expected to start in goal. Vidal may also take some part, despite reports that the Juventus midfielder, who was hampered by a knee problem during the World Cup, had suffered a relapse. Vidal, though, has denied that there is a major issue and tweeted that his knee was “perfect.”
Prediction: Both sides play an attractive style, with players expected to operate at a high tempo and stream forward at pace. The two teams also impressed with their assurance off the ball at the World Cup, although Mexico could struggle in this match with an inexperienced defense, missing Marquez and the injured Hector Moreno. Featuring a stronger squad overall, Chile should get a narrow win.
Mexico 1-2 Chile
Kickoff time: 10 p.m. ET
TV channel: Univision Deportes
Live stream: ESPN3