Mexico will hope to put a woeful 2013 behind them and begin their World Cup preparations in earnest for this summer’s World Cup when they take on South Korea in a friendly in San Antonio, Texas, on Wednesday.
Mexico surprisingly struggled throughout qualifying for Brazil, with the only saving grace that they finally secured their berth in an emphatic playoff win over New Zealand. Having gone through three previous coaches, Miguel Herrera was brought in to oversee the playoff success and has now been kept on for the big event.
With little time to prepare for the two-legged tie in November, Herrera opted to select only domestically based players. And with this friendly being on a non-FIFA date, the same formula will be utilized once more. With just one FIFA date remaining before Herrera is required to select his squad for the World Cup, another impressive performance against South Korea could leave the Mexico coach with more than a few conundrums about how many of his European-based stars, who under performed in qualifying, will make it on the plane come June.
Herrera has also made one bold statement about his squad, when asserting this week that Rafael Marquez is the only definite inclusion in his party and that the veteran defender would be his captain. The 34-year-old former Barcelona and New York Red Bulls man had been frozen out of the national team for some time before being brought back late in qualification to try and add some leadership to a faltering ship.
Wednesday’s encounter will present an opportunity for some faces at the other end of the experience scale to enhance their chances of joining Marquez in Brazil. Herrera has already revealed his starting lineup, with debuts set to be handed to Marquez’s Leon teammate Juan Vazquez, Pachuca’s Rodolfo Pizarro and Tigres striker Alan Pulido.
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Pulido will be partnered by Oribe Peralta up front, with the Santos Laguna man looking in prime position to lead the line at the World Cup after his five goals against New Zealand. Javier Hernandez, who continues to struggle for playing time at Manchester United, will only be able to look on anxiously about whether the one-time star man can earn his way back into the squad.
There is also the continued controversy over Carlos Vela. The former Arsenal forward has again been in fine form for Real Sociedad this season, but has not featured for Mexico for over three years. Yet Vela recently declined to rule out a possible return to the setup, while Herrera has also left the door open, as long as the player’s attitude is right and his teammates welcome him back.
South Korea will also be looking to prepare ahead of their participation in the World Cup this summer, although they will be fielding an effective “B team” in the match, as they will when taking on the United States on Saturday.
Where to watch: The international friendly will kick off from the Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas at 9 p.m. ET. Coverage will be provided by ESPN News, UniMas and Univision Deportes, with a live stream available on ESPN3 and UnivisionDeportes.com.