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Mexico vs. Iraq: must-win

El Tri are looking to gain confidence by dealing with Iraq appropriately as they gear up for the World Cup.

Colombia v Mexico Photo by Omar Vega/Getty Images

Mexico are set to face Iraq in Girona’s Estadi Montilivi at 3 ET / 2 CT / 12 PT in what is the first of their final two prep matches prior to the start of the World Cup. It’s their 8th friendly of the year (since April), through which they’ve amassed a total record of 2W, 2D, 3L. Not an ideal record by any stretch of the imagination for any country leading up to a World Cup, no matter what your goal in said tournament is. Especially when during that stretch, 5 of your 7 opponents didn’t even qualify for the World Cup. And their last two upcoming prep rivals aren’t heading to Qatar either.

But Mexico’s problems go far beyond just their poor friendly results. Over the entire WC qualifier period, 2021 Gold Cup, as well as friendlies, they’ve failed to truly find a system that suits their players and puts them in an ideal situation to succeed. This due in large part to the country’s past generation of core players slowly aging and retiring (to the point where Ochoa (37), Moreno (34, Herrera (32), and Guardado (36) are the only key players remaining) and their failure to find adequate replacements. The talent/ skill level just hasn’t been there for the Mexican NT.

Not to mention, the fact head coach ‘Tata’ Martino has progressively lost more of the country’s fanbase, he’s now gone further under fire after yesterday’s comments explaining his decision to exclude youngster Santi Giménez from the roster, despite his recent performances in Europa League. While if it were up to me, I would take Giménez, I also understand there’s a full process that’s gone into Martino’s tenure and in the end, you trust the coach knows who is producing the most and gives his team the best chances to win. It’s also not a move that would significantly increase Mexico’s chances either.

So, who exactly are Mexico facing in Iraq today? This is a NT who have only participated in a World Cup once (Mexico 1986) and lost all three of their matches by the way. This meaning they’ve failed to qualify for the last 9 WC editions (including this year’s). It’s a federation that has seen 5 head coaching changes since July 2021. They just named Spaniard Jesús Casas as their NT head coach, in what is intended to be a permanent move. We’ll see how that goes, but for today’s match, interim HC Radhi Shenaishil will be in charge.

The Iraq NT is ranked 68th by FIFA and failed to make it past the third and final round in their WC qualifiers. Their starting lineup for today features no player currently on an important club on a global level. In other words, Mexico must (and I mean MUST) dominate this team from start to finish and should come out winners from this match with no difficulty. It’s officially go time for Mexico and if you can’t even beat Iraq in a friendly, then you have no business attending a World Cup.

Now is not the time for trying to establish your style of play; you’ve had the past 4 years to do that. If it hasn’t happened by now, it ain’t happenin’ for the World Cup. Today’s objectives: DOMINATE and WIN no matter what (and get your players some confidence on the way).

Here are today’s starting lineups: