Mexico may have long since secured progress to the final round of Concacaf World Cup qualifying, but that doesn’t mean that Tuesday’s clash against Honduras has nothing riding on it. Indeed, it is a clash that contains plenty of edge.
The match at the Estadio Azteca will come three years to the day since Honduras went to the famed stadium in Mexico City and recorded a 2-1 victory in World Cup qualifying, a result that cost then coach Juan Manuel “Chepo” de la Torre his job. Much has changed in the intervening time, including a rapid turnover of coaches. Yet, while experienced defender Hector Moreno has insisted there is no thought about revenge on Tuesday, it is clear El Tri will not want a repeat.
For Honduras, the motivation is obvious. At least a draw is required for Los Catrachos to join Mexico in the Hexagonal and avoid being usurped by Canada, which sits three points back and with a five goal deficit in goal differential. Controversy has reigned before the final round of fixtures, with El Salvador, who visit Canada on Tuesday, claiming that it has been offered money to win, draw or lose by just a single goal.
Honduras is looking to reach a third consecutive World Cup and is now, like Mexico, under the charge of a Colombian. Jorge Luis Pinto guided Costa Rica to the quarterfinals of the 2014 World Cup in Brazil and he also took charge of Honduras’ Olympic team last month, guiding it to the semifinals. Osorio is in no doubt where the strength of his side’s opponent on Tuesday lies.
“We expect a team that gives priority to the defensive side, usually retreats with eight or nine players and will look to attack suddenly in transitions,” the It is an athletic team that gives priority to defense.”
Mexico made it five wins out of five matches in its group on Friday, coming from behind to beat El Salvador 3-1 on the road. It was a much-needed victory, coming as it did in the team’s first match since its devastating 7-0 loss to Chile in the quarterfinals of this summer’s Copa America Centenario. But Osorio is well aware that it will take more than one win to rebuild the faith in both the team and him from the Mexican public.
"If we look at the results, there are 12 games, 10 wins with a draw and one loss,” he said, outlining his record in charge in his pre-match press conference. “Mexicans are very demanding and with the result [against Chile] confidence was lost. It is our responsibility and we are trying to recover that.”
Still, Osorio has also hinted that he could give opportunities to some younger players on Tuesday. To a large extent his hand is being forced by a number of absentees. Raul Jimenez, who scored the third goal in El Salvador, has now joined Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez, Jesus “Tecatito” Corona, Oribe Peralta, Paul Aguilar and Nester Araujo on the list of absentees.
As well as Hirving “Chucky” Lozano, who returns from suspension, other young players Angel Sepulveda, who scored on his debut against El Salvador, and Martin Barragan and Angel Zaldivar could get a chance in attack.