The World Cup is upon us. In a week from today, Qatar and Ecuador will have inaugurated the 2022 World Cup and Mexico will be making their WC debut in a mere 24-hour time period. And with ‘Tata’ Martino’s final 26-man roster due in just minutes / hours today, it couldn’t begin to feel any more real.
After cruising against a limited Iraq in their penultimate friendly match last week, Mexico now turn to Sweden to officially close out their prep period before travelling to Qatar for the real thing. And a tough test it will be for Martino and company, as not only must he deal with Sweden’s high quality players, but is still figuring what players he’ll use of his own, especially in terms of whether Jiménez is fit enough to be on the final list and ultimately, the pitch next week.
With kickoff slated at 2:30 pm ET / 1:30 pm CT / 12:30 pm PT on Wednesday, Mexico will look to sort out its final tactical details, decide on who’s the most ready and fit to start the WC, and use this match as a measuring stick of sorts, as Sweden will look A LOT more like El Tri’s World Cup rivals than Iraq did.
So, who exactly is Sweden? They’re led by head coach Janne Andersson, who’s held the position since 2016, meaning yes, he was the coach who embarrassed Mexico in the 3-0 Russia 2018 WC group stage loss, so he knows Mexico quite a bit I’d say. They’re currently ranked 25th by FIFA and have been on a bit of a downward spiral of late.
They finished 2nd (4 points behind Spain) in their WC qualifiers group, but notably lost a match to Georgia (ranked 93rd at the time), allowing Spain to jump in front of them for 1st in the group with just one match to go. It ultimately doomed their WC chances. 2nd in the group still allowed them to play for a spot via the UEFA playoff system, in which they had to win two matches. After winning the first against Czech Republic by a 1-0 score in a hard fought extra time match, they then fell to Mexico’s first WC rival, Poland, in their deciding WC spot match by a 2-0 final. Had they won, it could be them squaring off with Mexico next Tuesday. Instead, it’s the third out four World Cups where Sweden have failed to even qualify.
Here is the 24-man roster Sweden will have available to face Mexico in a couple days:
Här är truppen som ska representera herrlandslaget i matcherna mot & pic.twitter.com/iNODnktsrj— Svensk Fotboll (@svenskfotboll) November 8, 2022
Notables from that list include Aston Villa keeper Robin Olsen, Manchester United CB Victor Lindelöf and winger Anthony Elanga, veteran Viktor Claesson, and attacking midfielder Emil Forsberg. Whether they’ll all play remains to be seen, but one would only hope so, as it gives Mexico its best chance to see a World Cup quality rival. The only important missing piece to this NT is Tottenham’s Dejan Kulusevski, who was sidelined the entire month of October due to injury and has slowly been making his way back into the lineup over the past couple weeks. Makes sense not wanting to risk his health for a couple meaningless friendlies.
Despite only winning one out of six matches since June in their UEFA Nations League B group (Norway, Serbia, and Slovenia), this team remains extremely dangerous and continues to hold two truths about them: 1) They’re an extremely orderly bunch; 2) They’re dangerous going forward (and aren’t afraid to) with players such as Claesson and Forsberg.
It’s important to note Sweden lead the all-time head-to-head record between these two with 5 victories. They’ve drawn 3 times and Mexico have won just twice. Also important to mention is the last time Mexico defeated the Swedes was back in 1994. Since then, they’ve seen each other three times; a scoreless draw in 2005, a 1-0 Sweden win in 2009, and the 3-0 Sweden 2018 WC victory. In other words, an important test for Mexico who have much to prove against this side, and what better way to do so than in a final test just before the World Cup.
Whatever the outcome, an interesting match it should be. But if Mexico wish to be taken seriously, it’s vital that a loss to the hands of Sweden is avoided. As I mentioned prior to the Iraq match, the form doesn’t matter at this point. You play to win no matter what and should do everything possible to at least come out with a draw against this NT that’s clearly had your number. Take it as an official match and do what you would a week from now.