Antonio Naelson Sinha of Mexico and Enrique Vera of Paraguay go for the ball during their international friendly match. Sinha, despite his age, is still a fixture in El Tri's side.
Mexico takes on Brazil in Torreon on Tuesday night, and it should be an extremely entertaining affair. Most of Brazil's stars are on display, while El Tri mainstays 'Chicharito' Javier Hernandez, Giovani dos Santos, Pablo Barrera and Andres Guardado should lead the attack. However, there's a noticeable lack of new young talent in 'Chepo' Jose Manuel de la Torre's team, despite the high level of young talent in the Mexican Primere Division.
Instead, the likes of Antonio Naelson Sinha, Israel Castro, Rafael Marquez and Oswaldo Sanchez have been called into the team. All are veterans who are almost certainly too old to be factors in the 2014 World Cup for Mexico, and all are either backups or players who most supporters feel should be backups.
The fact that Chepo continues to call in these players is a bit surprising, to say the least. The Mexico U-17 and U-20 sides showed off their talent in the two youth World Cups over the summer, and young players continue to play prominent roles in teams in the Mexican Primera. The four above-listed players haven't played like players who deserve to be in the starting lineup lately, and they're obviously not developing any further. So, why do they continue to make the squad, especially for international friendlies that could be used to get youngsters great experience in an environment where their potential mistakes aren't that big of a deal?
If Chepo wants these players in his team because he thinks they provide valuable experience and a valuable presence for the young players, that's a perfectly logical reason to call them in. However, there aren't really any 'young' players in this Mexico squad or in Chepo's recent teams. Chicharito, Gio, Guardado, Barrera, Hector Moreno and Guillermo Ochoa are no longer young players. All of them play overseas and all of them have played in a couple dozen competitive international fixtures. These are not players who are in serious need of mentorship.
The players that might be? The likes of Erick Torres, David Cabrera, Javier Cortes, Marco Fabian, Kristian Alvarez, etc.? They're being left off the team. Monterrey's Sergio Perez and America's Jesus Molina, the most inexperienced players in this team, are well into their 20s and have a great deal of professional experience.
These international friendlies need to be used as opportunities to provide experience to the younger players who will back up Mexico's front four in the hexagonal and the 2014 World Cup. They need to be used to give experience to the future replacements of Gerardo Torrado and 'Maza' Fransisco Rodriguez, who will be lucky to stay at the top of their game until the start of the hexagonal. There is little to no chance that these two players will be good enough to start at World Cup 2014.
At the moment, it seems clear that Chepo is very content with his veteran backups. There's nothing that he's done that suggests he's going to take anyone but these players into World Cup qualifying. However, he's setting himself up for a serious problem. There will come a day when he needs to replace these players and his aging stars in the starting lineup, and the players who are good enough and young enough to replace them will have little to no international experience.
This game should have been an opportunity for some youngsters to get a run-out in an El Tri shirt against high quality opposition, but instead, the likes of Sinha and Marquez will likely earn another meaningless cap.