Mexico’s preparations for the 2015 Copa America begin in earnest on Saturday when El Tri takers on Guatemala in Chiapas. The match will be the first chance for Herrera to work with his chosen squad ahead of the South American championship, which gets underway in Chile on June 11. Mexico play their first match of the tournament a day later against Bolivia, but first have friendlies against Peru and Brazil, after taking on Concacaf rivals Guatemala.
Coach Miguel Herrera will have what is essentially a “B” squad available to him for the next few weeks, having made the decision to prioritize the Gold Cup this summer. The Concacaf championship gives Mexico the opportunity to regain their continental superiority and earn a playoff with holders United States, for the right to go to the Confederations Cup in 2017.
European stars Javier “Chicharito” Hernández, Carlos Vela, Hector Herrera, Andres Guardado and Hector Moreno will all go to the Gold Cup, leaving a more inexperienced squad to go south to the Copa America. Still, Herrera has dismissed the idea the players he does have aren’t capable of making an impact in Chile.
“I’ve never talked about an A selection or a B selection,” he said at a press conference next week, reports Medio Tiempo. “This team is put together to reach the final," "We'll give a few teams a scare and, while we’ll face tough opponents, we'll be a different team than we were in the last edition.”
Herrera’s squad has been boosted by the arrival in recent days of the only four players called up who ply their trade in Europe -- Atletico Madrid’s Raul Jiménez, Hellas Verona's Rafa Márquez, FC Twente’s Jesús “Tecatito” Corona and Javier Aquino, who spent the season on loan at Rayo Vallecano and . And Herrera has spoken in support of Jiménez, despite the striker starting just four times in his first La Liga season.
“Raul has had a tough time” Herrera said. “He's young, but he's grown a lot and he finished [the season] fairly well. [Diego] Simeone told us that it is likely he'll continue at Atletico Madrid.”
Also joining up the squad have been Chivas pair Marco Fabian and Carlos Salcedo after their club were eliminated from Liga MX playoffs. Defender Miguel Herrera Equiha was also made available following Pachuca’s exit, but the 26-year-old has been ruled out of the Copa America with a sprained ankle, leaving Atlas’ Juan Carlos Valenzuela to be called in as his replacement.
It will be a very different side then that takes to the field on Saturday than the one that will face Guatemala again in the group stages of the Gold Cup in July. It was also in the Gold Cup that the two sides last met, when Mexico triumphed 2-1 in 2011. Guatemala’s 2015 has been a disappointment so far, recording three defeats and one draw in their four matches. The squad selected to take on Mexico has just three players who play outside of their home country, with a full 11 taken from the recently crowned champions Comunicaciones FC.
Date: Saturday, May 30
Kickoff time: 6 p.m. EDT
Prediction: Mexico over Guatemala, 2-0