Against El Salvador, so much of the pregame focus regarding Mexico was on how they would respond from their Copa America Centenario exit. Granted, they might well have been down 2-0 at the half, Juan Carlos Osorio’s side found the resilience to marshal back from a goal down and come away from the Cuscatlán with all three points.
Unsurprisingly, criticism still followed. For coach Juan Carlos Osorio, the battle had begun right after that final whistle in Santa Clara, California, and a hard-fought victory over El Salvador was never going to end it.
Given that, against Honduras at the Estadio Azteca, the expectations will be much of the same for El Tri. On the whole, this is a game that scarcely seems to matter, as Mexico are already qualified for the final round of World Cup qualifying. However, for a number of fans and members of Mexican media, there are greater issues that can only be fixed with convincing wins.
Honduras, though, is no slouch in the CONCACAF region. For them, this game is hardly a routine match. Los Catrachos need at least a draw to seal a place in the final Hex, and they are coming off an important 2-1 win over Canada. Their current goal difference over the Canadians is of five goals, which means Jorge Luis Pinto’s side could even qualify with a defeat.
Their player to watch is new Monterrey forward Alberth Elis. The 20-year-old was exceptional for Honduras during last month’s Olympics, possessing the speed, strength, and technical edge to make him a regular for the Catrachos in years to come.
For this match, Osorio will have to deal with at least one more major absence. Forward Raul Jimenez aggravated a knee injury during Mexico’s win over El Salvador and has traveled back to Portugal. The only replacement strikers available for El Tri are Angel Zaldivar and Martin Barragan, meaning one could be making his debut for the national team on Tuesday
In and of itself, a defeat to Honduras at the Estadio Azteca would be unforgiving. In a period where everybody is a critic, it would only reemphasize the disastrous state many argue El Tri is in under Osorio. In that sense, there is little room for Juan Carlos Osorio to get it wrong. The pressure is still on.