Chicharito & Moreno out, Lainez in: How Mexico must rebuild after another World Cup round of 16 exit
After yet another empty quest for the quinto partido, what do El Tri need to do to take the next step in four years?
The curse continues with Mexico once again failing to get into the round of 16 at a World Cup.
El Tri started the tournament well but ran into Brazil’s buzzsaw and are headed home after a 2-0 loss to the South Americans.
So much about the national team’s future is now up in the air. Who will coach Mexico in the future? What will the fixtures look like with CONCACAF set to launch the Nations League? Which young players need to be involved with the system going forward? And who from this team will return to represent Mexico in four years?
Mexico players who should be dropped
It could be the end for a fantastic generation of players. While you’d love to see some of those players stay at a top level, it’s going to be a challenge for many of them to do so. Rafa Marquez and Oribe Peralta already have announced their international retirements. Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez will be 34, as will center back Hector Moreno. Andres Guardado is going to be 35. Even Carlos Vela and the Dos Santos brothers will be on the wrong side of 30 for the tournament set to take place in Qatar.
Some of those guys may give it a go, though, and Mexico would benefit from their veteran leadership. Guardado in particular seems intent on staying in Europe for another two years. He could match Marquez with a fifth World Cup should he see action in 2022. With 150 caps to his name already, El Tri’s all-time cap leader Claudio Suarez’s 177 is well within range should Guardado stay healthy.
Still, it’s difficult to see Chicharito and Moreno being in the form needed to be part of the next World Cup squad – and if Guardado is there it will likely be in a substitute role. Miguel Layun is a different case as well. His versatility makes him a great option for national team coaches, though whether he can keep his form up for another four years when he will be 34 is hardly a given.
Giovani dos Santos, Jonathan dos Santos and Vela also seem to be candidates to call time on their international careers, though the fact that they are playing in MLS where they can generally fly direct to match locations rather than having to fly across the Atlantic Ocean and make stopovers means they could stick around longer than expected.
Mexico players who should be called up
There were no big omissions from Juan Carlos Osorio when he named his roster. Rodolfo Pizarro was one of the most notable names. He has moved on to Monterrey and should be entering his prime when 2022 rolls around. Expect the former Chivas attacker to figure into the picture in the future.
It’s time for the Diego Lainez era to get started, as well. The 18-year-old turned heads in the Toulon Tournament, helping Mexico to a second-place finish in the prestigious youth event. While Club America wants to hold on to the phenom, a European move could be on the horizon. Lainez on the right and Lozano on the left will be a technically sound pairing that terrifies fullbacks for years to come.
While Guillermo Ochoa could still be Mexico’s No. 1 in four years, it’s also time to find the next great Mexican goalkeeper. No young player has impressed more than Gibran Lajud. The 24-year-old already is the regular starter for Club Tijuana. He overcame some early growing pains to become a serious prospect and even earned a call-up from Osorio for the January friendly against Bosnia and Herzegovina.
That friendly marked the Mexico debut of Jonathan Gonzalez, and the young Rayados midfielder is an excellent option in the middle of the field. Omar Govea also shows potential there but needs to sort out his club situation and continue to improve to make the roster.
How will Mexico line up in the 2022 World Cup?
There are a few issues about this team. For one, it doesn’t have Diego Reyes in it. He and Cesar Montes are the center backs left out, though both should be part of Mexico’s future and will be the right age to shine in 2022. Yet, Nestor Araujo and Carlos Salcedo, if he returns to the national team, could form such an excellent partnership in the middle that it may be worth sacrificing them or, in Reyes’ case, putting him in a different position. The fullbacks remain Jesus Gallardo and Edson Alvarez, who now have the experience of playing the position at the World Cup. It’s possible neither is playing there for their club teams, but the next manager would be wise to continue to give them minutes in those roles.
Up top, Hirving Lozano is the first name on the team sheet. He didn’t look at all out of place in his debut World Cup, scoring a goal against Germany, adding an assist against South Korea and troubling the Brazilian defense. Another potential issue is central forward. Raul Jimenez will be 31, though it’s not clear if he’ll still be with Wolves. Young Eduardo Aguirre looks to be an excellent forward, but he’s even shorter than Chicharito. Playing as a center forward may not suit the quick Santos Laguna man, though we’ll see how he develops in the next few years.
All in all, it looks like a talented team – but more players will emerge. After Brazil, who could’ve seen Lozano’s breakout seasons or Gallardo’s successful conversion to left back? Also, don’t expect the older generation to go easily. While it may be time for Chicharito, Miguel Layun and Guardado to take on different roles, they wear their love for Mexico on their sleeves and won’t give up their places without a fight.
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