Ricardo “Tuca” Ferretti’s time in charge of Mexico may not last for long, but he can ensure he will long be remembered by leading El Tri to victory over the United States in front of a sold-out Rose Bowl crowd in Pasadena, California, on Saturday.
Ferretti was handed the reins on a four-game interim basis following Miguel Herrera’s dismissal in the wake of their Gold Cup win. His task was always a clear one: defeat the U.S. and claim a place at the 2017 Confederations Cup. While World Cup qualifying may not start until next month, the preparation for Russia starts here.
And having watched on as the U.S. lifted the Gold Cup two years ago and then struggled as their rivals to the north sauntered through qualifying for the 2014 World Cup, the Confederations Cup playoff is a real chance for Mexico to reassert their Concacaf superiority. While El Tri went onto lift the Gold Cup this summer, they did so on the back of a number of controversial officiating calls going in their favor and performances that failed to convince. Just two days after lifting the trophy aloft, the coach that led them to it, Herrera, was fired for assaulting a television commentator. Any hope for continuity was dashed.
Ferretti appears unlikely to reestablish a sense of cohesion. Still in charge of Tigres, he has so far provided no indication that he wants the job on a permanent basis. But he can at least set in place a strong foundation for the man who does take the reins.
“I am nervous, but hopeful,” Ferretti said at a press conference on Monday, reports Concacaf.com. “It’s a beautiful nervousness to have the responsibility of doing a good job and look for a good result on Saturday.”
The Confederations Cup is taking on an increasingly prominent status as a warmup event for the World Cup. And the tournament has particular significance for Mexico. Only Brazil have been to more Confederations Cups, which has taken on many guises since being started by Saudi Arabia in 1992, than Mexico. And El Tri won the event on home soil in 1999, when beating Brazil in the final.
There have long been hopes that the current generation of players can go onto make an even greater impact on the world stage. And it will be a strong squad that Ferretti has at his disposal for a match dubbed the Concacaf Cup. Indeed, he could well select the same lineup that took a 2-0 lead against Argentina in a friendly last month before Lionel Messi and Sergio Agüero sparked in the final minutes to secure the World Cup runners-up a draw.
Veteran Rafa Márquez has shaken off an injury and is likely to line up alongside Héctor Moreno and Diego Reyes in a back three as part of the 5-3-2 system Ferretti has embraced since taking over. In front of them, the experienced Andres Guardado has also returned to fitness just in time and is likely to start in a trio with holder José Juan Vázquez and Porto’s Hector Herrera.
Up front, Javier “Chicharito” Hernández has scored twice so far for new club Bayer Leverkusen. As Hernández’s partner, Ferretti has a choice of Carlos Vela or Raul Jiménez. One man who won’t be involved, though, is Giovani dos Santos. The LA Galaxy forward was named to the squad along with brother Jonathan, despite both being left out last month. But he has since been ruled out with a muscular problem suffered in the Galaxy’s 1-1 result with the Seattle Sounders on Sunday night.
It promises to be a familiar lineup both in terms of personnel and tactics. And, while Mexico may have the apparent instability of an interim coach, that could give them an advantage against a U.S. side that under Jurgen Klinsmann has embraced mass experimentation.
Mexico squad for U.S. match
Goalkeepers: Moises Munoz (Club América), Jonathan Orozco (Monterrey), Alfredo Talavera (Toluca)
Defenders: Paul Aguilar (Club América), Miguel Layun (Porto, Portugal), Rafael Márquez (Hellas Verona, Italy), Hector Moreno (PSV Eindhoven, Netherlands), Diego Reyes (Real Sociedad, Spain), José Arturo Rivas (Tigres), Jorge Torres Nilo (Tigres)
Midfielders: Javier Aquino (Tigres), Jonathan dos Santos (Villarreal, Spain), Carlos Esquivel (Toluca), Javier Güémez (Club América), Israel Jiménez (Tigres), Andres Guardado (PSV Eindhoven, Netherlands), Hector Herrera (Porto, Portugal), José Juan Vázquez (Leon)
Forwards: Jesús Corona (Porto, Portugal), Javier Hernández (Bayer Leverkusen, Germany), Raúl Jiménez (Benfica, Portugal), Oribe Peralta (Club América), Carlos Vela (Real Sociedad, Spain)