Mexico plays the first leg of its World Cup playoff against New Zealand today at the Estadio Azteca in Mexico City.
A loss could result in a $US600 million hit to the Mexican economy.
But some of the country’s best and most well-known players aren’t on the roster.
New coach Miguel Herrera refused to use any foreign-based players for the two-game playoff.
Every player on the 23-man roster plays professionally in the Mexican league.
Some of the players who won’t be on the field today: Javier Hernandez (Manchester United), Giovanni Dos Santos (Villareal), Javier Aquino (Villareal), Andres Guardado (Valencia), Hector Moreno (Espanyol), and Carlos Vela (Real Sociedad).
The official reason: Jet lag.
Herrera told the press that European-based players travelling from Europe to Mexico to New Zealand in a 10-day span would cause fatigue.
But travel has never stopped Mexico from picking its best players in the past. The rosters of many top North and South Americans teams often consist entirely of European-based players.
Uruguay, for instance, is using a majority of foreign-based players for its World Cup playoff against Jordan today.
The more likely reason why Herrera chose an all domestic-based roster comes down to comfort and familiarity.
Herrera has been the manager of the Mexican national team for less than a month. Before that, he was the coach of Club America — the reigning Mexican league champions.
Seven of the eleven starters for Mexico in today’s game are Club America players. He’s also using the same formation that he used with the club last year.
Fittingly, the game is taking place in the Estadio Azteca — Club America’s home stadium.
Herrera doesn’t have time to bring in players from all over Europe who’ve never played together and try to figure out a system that works. Instead he’s putting out a souped-up version of a Club America team that knows each other well and has a proven record of success.
It’s a gamble, for sure. Herrera will get a ton of heat if he loses because he refused to pick his best players.
He’s betting on chemistry, not talent.
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