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Mexico’s goal in 2015 should be to take a solid step towards the world’s top 10

Mexico’s goal in 2015 should be to take a solid step towards the world’s top 10

Posted by Juan Gavasa on December 26, 2014

FIFA rankings are by no means the be all and end all for a national team. Indeed, they are regularly ridiculed and often rightly so.

But when it comes to Mexico, which ended the year in 20th position, they do seem to be a reasonable barometer of where the national team is at compared to the competition, both heading into 2015 and historically.

El Tri is a good, respectable side that can compete at the top, but none of the top world teams would be legitimately worried about facing it in the latter stages of a World Cup. In fact, the likes of Germany or Argentina would probably think playing Mexico in the quarterfinal of a World Cup would be a relatively comfortable draw.

The period between 2001 and 2005 is the only one in which El Tri has remained in the top 10 consistently, reaching a high of fourth overall at different monthly intervals under coach Ricardo La Volpe. Mexico’s average position since the rankings were created is 14th, again a fair assessment of where El Tri’s place is in the world soccer order. The team has only twice reached the World Cup quarterfinals, in 1970 and 1986, and both competitions were held in Mexico.

When you have that in mind, the seemingly strange phenomenon of Mexico consistently getting out of its group at the World Cup and falling short at the round of 16 stage isn’t as bizarre as it first appears. El Tri has never been considered an absolutely top side with players that feature for the best club teams in the world. There are and have been better teams and that has been found out at the last three World Cups when Argentina (twice) and the Netherlands have knocked Mexico out. Since 1986, only in 1994 in the round of 16 match against Hristo Stoichkov’s Bulgaria and in 2002 against the United States could you make the argument that El Tri was at least level in terms of talent on the field when Mexico went out of the competitions.

While Miguel Herrera’s stated goals for 2015 are to win the Gold Cup and reach the final of the Copa America, the general aim of the Mexican national team is today the same as it was back in 1986: become one of the world’s 10 best sides consistently.

Rather than being judged on just a few games in the World Cup, or on the ups and down, twists and turns of qualifying or a continental competition, El Tri needs to evade the underdog tag when it gets to the latter stages. After all, only eight teams ever have won the World Cup and not many average ones tend to get very far. Tournaments aren’t as random as they may seem when you analyze them. Good teams tend to win more football matches than not so good ones, as if it needs repeating.

With an improvement into the top 10 for Mexico, the quarterfinals, semifinals and even finals at World Cups will sooner or later come.

This past year laid a pleasing platform in that regard.

Herrera’s Mexico team gave a good showing in all four of its games at Brazil 2014 and he hits on a style that suits the strengths of the players.

The improvements in youth systems at Liga MX clubs is starting to produce some quality talent, which has been partially validated by both the likes of Raul Jimenez moving to Atletico Madrid and the continued success Mexico youth sides have had in recent years in international competitions.

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