The pressure returns to Mexico coach Jose Manuel de la Torre on Friday when he attempts to secure a much-needed first home win of the Hexagonal with the visit of Honduras. Indeed, even a first home goal of the campaign would be a welcome relief at this stage.
Mexico’s qualification for the World Cup, considered a mere formality at the start of the Hexagonal, has so far been anything but. Jamaica, the United States and Costa Rica have all come to the one-time fortress of the Azteca and emerged with goalless draws, as Mexico have struggled inordinately to break down stubborn opponents. With just one win, and only three goals, from six matches in total, Mexico sits in the third and final automatic qualification spot through CONCACAF, but with Friday’s opponents Honduras just a single point behind.
After being told that he would remain in his job for the time being, De la Torre was boosted by a 4-1 friendly win over Ivory Coast last month. But that result will count for nothing if a victory is not achieved against Honduras.
Javier Hernandez scored twice when the sides played out a 2-2 draw in the reverse fixture earlier this year. Yet, the Manchester United striker finds his place under threat after the returning Oribe Peralta scored twice in Hernandez’s absence against Ivory Coast.
“We are waiting to find out [whether me make the team] and everyone is in the same position,” he said, according to ESPN. “If we want to qualify we have to win all the rest of our matches and we know what it means for Mexico,” Hernandez said. “Every time we play we go out looking for the three points.”
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Angel Reyna also got on the scoresheet last time out and the Veracruz attacking midfielder will be hoping to keep his place. The same is also true for Argentinian-born midfielder Christian Giminez, who made his debut for El Tri in that encounter.
Since their opening two matches of the Hexagonal, when they beat the United States as well as drawing with Mexico, Honduras have also struggled. Indeed, a home win over bottom-of-the-standings Jamaica is all that Luis Fernando Suarez’s side have to show for their efforts, while there have been defeats to the United States and Panama.
D: Meza, Moreno, Rodriguez, Salcido
M: Arce, Torrado
Dos Santos, Gimenez, Reyna
D: Peralta, Montes, Velasquez, Izaguirre
M: Najar, Palacios, Claros, Espinoza, Martinez
Prediction: Mexico produced an improved performance against Ivory Coast but it would be foolhardy to read too much into that game. Not only did the African side appear to be taking the match very much as a friendly but it also played without the defensive tactics and discipline which Mexico have found so hard to bypass.
Expect Honduras to certainly come with a game plan to sit back and force Mexico to try and break it down. The question is whether El Tri and its far too conservative coach will this time be up to the challenge. There is an argument to be made that Hernandez should be dropped as his skills of playing on the shoulder of the last defender are limited when defenses drop deep. But it is hard to imaging de la Torre taking such a bold step.
It will be up to Reyna and Dos Santos, supported by the passing of Gimenez, to try and break through the Honduras ranks. This time Mexico may just succeed and secure a narrow and edgy victory.
Mexico 1-0 Honduras
Where to watch: The World Cup qualifier will kick-off from the Azteca in Mexico City at 9.30 p.m. ET. Coverage will be provided by ESPN News, with a live stream available on Watch ESPN.