Mexico will be aiming to pick up right where it left off at the end of last year when it takes to the field for its first game of 2016 against Senegal in Miami on Wednesday.
El Tri finished 2015 with four straight wins, starting with a victory over rival the United States to secure a place in the 2017 Confederations Cup. There was no let up once interim coach Ricardo Ferretti was replaced by Juan Carlos Ososrio, with Mexico going on to take six points from its first two games of World Cup qualifying. A double header with Canada is now upcoming in March, when Mexico could seal an early place to Concacaf’s final round Hexagonal.
Before that comes the friendly with Senegal and a chance for Osorio to cast his eye over some of his domestic-based talent. With the match falling outside FIFA’s international window, clubs are not obliged to release their players and thus only thus who ply their trade in Liga MX will be present.
There is likely to be particular focus on a trio of youngsters from Pachuca. The Liga MX side has produced plenty of talent in recent years, including Porto’s Hector Herrera and winger Jurgen Damm—now at Tigres and also in the current Mexico squad. Its latest crop is highlighted by winger Hirving Lozano and midfielders Erick Gutiérrez and Rodolfo Pizarro, all 21 or younger, with Lozano and Gutiérrez getting called up for the first time. The trio is also set to feature prominently for Mexico as it defends its Olympic gold at Under-23 level this summer, when they could be joined by Monterrey’s Cándido Ramírez, who has also earned his first place in a senior squad.
At the other end of the age scale, although sharing the same lack of inexperience at international level, is Alejandro Palacios. At the age of 34, the Pumas goalkeeper has a surprise chance to make his El Tri debut. In the absence of regulars Alfredo Talavera and Guillermo Ochoa, he is joined by Cruz Azul stopper Jesús Corona in Osorio’s squad.
Another experienced El Tri figure, Javier Aquino, has had to drop out with a hamstring problem. Further diminishing Osorio’s player pool is Chivas’ refusal to release a number of its squad. Osorio reportedly wanted to call up as many as eight players from the Liga MX giants, but with Chivas battling against relegation, it has only allowed defender Carlos Salcedo, who is suspended for its next match, to join up with the national team.
That decision further highlights the question of just how valuable an exercise Wednesday’s friendly is, especially as its problematic place on the calendar can be attributed to a marketing agreement signed requiring Mexico to play a set number of games in the United States.
The absence of European-based players now hits El Tri particularly hard given the increasing number of players now operating in Europe. The absence is particularly felt in the attacking department. Bayer Leverkusen’s Javier “Chicharito” Hernández , Real Sociedad’s Carlos Vela, and Benfica’s Raúl Jiménez will all be absent, leaving Eduardo Herrera of Pumas and Tijuana’s Henry Martin to carry the workload.
For Senegal, the match will act as preparation for the resumption of qualifying for the 2017 African Nations Cup next month. Senegal currently sit top of its qualification group after two matches. However, like Mexico, it will be limited to players from its domestic league, meaning the likes of Southampton forward Sadio Mané will be missing.
Goalkeepers: Jesús Corona (Cruz Azul), Alejandro Palacios (Pumas)
Defenders: Nestor Araujo (Santos Laguna), Yasser Corona (Queretaro), Jesús Dueñas (Tigres), Gerardo Flores (Toluca), Israel Jiménez (Tigres), Jose Rivas (Tigres), Gerardo Rodríguez (Toluca), Carlos Salcedo (Chivas), Jorge Torres Nilo (Tigres)
Midfielders: Jurgen Damm (Tigres), Erick Gutiérrez (Pachuca), Hirving Lozano (Pachuca), Jesús Molina (Santos Laguna), Luis Montes (Leon), Rodolfo Pizarro (Pachuca), Candido Ramirez (Monterrey), Jesús Zavala (Monterrey),
Forwards: Eduardo Herrera (Pumas), Henry Martin (Club Tijuana)
Prediction: The result is never the most important element in a friendly, and in a match that will feature such unfamiliar lineups as this one will, predicting the outcome is particularly perilous. But Mexico has some exciting young talent involved and really should be far too strong for its opponents from the Senegal Premier League. The lack of forward options may prevent El Tri from getting a truly emphatic win, however.
Predicted score: Mexico 2-0 Senegal
Tickets information: Tickets for the match at Marlins Park can be purchased via Tickets.com, here.