As the clock ticked down on the last game of the year for Mexico’s National Team on November 30th and the men led by Gerardo “Tata” Martino authored the worst World Cup performance for the country in almost thirty years, everyone and everybody had a take.
Sure, when you get bounced in the group stage for the first time since 1978, you’re bound to receive some criticism. Especially because the failure is just an exclamation point in a year that saw Mexico lose out in qualification for the next Olympic cycle and the Women’s World Cup.
With some distance now from that fateful day in Lusail Stadium and considering it’s New Year’s Eve, how about we do some resolutions for the reeling El Tri as they look toward 2026.
Much like everyone’s personal New Year’s resolutions, all of these requests are done in good faith, even if you know deep within yourself that the odds of a lot of them coming true are wishful thinking at best, but we’ll hope for them anyway.
Resolution #1: Don’t hire based on the color of a passport
In the immediate aftermath of the elimination, many talking heads immediately lobbied for the new coach of the National Team to be a Mexican national. Not only lobbied for, but demanded one. That their Mexican nationality had to be the most important prerequisite to take the reins moving forward and made them somehow a better fit just for being born in the country.
Gerardo “Tata” Martino ended up being a very poor coach for the NT due to a multitude of reasons. None of them, however, are the fact that he happened to be born in Argentina.
If the person that leads Mexico forwards happens to be Mexican, I’m all for it, great. But if for whatever reason, the best person for the job happens to be born elsewhere, I’d much rather give that person the job rather than a lesser candidate who happens to have the “right” nationality for the gig.
To suggest that a Mexican passport is a must is to ignore the very history of the NT in which some of the greatest moments in its history, like the victory over Germany in 2018 or their sole Round of 16 win and quarterfinals appearance in 1986, were led by foreign coaches (Juan Carlos Osorio and Bora Milutinovic, respectively).
Appointing the right coach is going to be a big factor in whether or not Mexico can make history as a host nation three and a half years from now. It’s not going to be an easy decision - and I sure as hell don’t pretend to have the answer - but don’t go into it by disqualifying worthy candidates based solely on their place of birth.
Resolution #2: Let past glories stay in the past
Brand new Salernitana player Guillermo Ochoa is without a doubt one of the best Mexican goalies in history. His performances in the World Cup will forever be part of the lore of the competition and his decision to go back to a top league like Serie A at this point in his career is very commendable.
Fellow five time World Cup participant Andres Guardado has had arguably one of the most successful European careers of any Mexican player ever, and his refusal to come back to either MLS or Liga MX in order to continue playing at the highest levels is proof of his talent and professionalism.
Hector Herrera and Hector Moreno both had long stints as top players for both club and country and while Raul Jimenez had his best moment as a player tragically cut short due to injury, his European career and ongoing comeback is something he can and should be proud of. I’d also preferably not ever see one of them wear the green Mexico kit ever again.
As a host nation, Mexico are in a unique situation as the mad dash for qualification in the CONCACAF Hexagon is not something they’re going to have to be concerned with for this World Cup cycle. Their automatic bid means you can afford to give younger, untested players more chances from the get go, without being afraid of poor results putting you in a tough position in the Hexagon.
The only goal you should have for the next three and a half years is to prepare the team for the World Cup. Giving one single minute to players who will not make it due to their age is counterproductive to that goal even if the short term results are marginally better.
Maybe not every youngster actually pans out, but you’ll never know until you start relying on them for big minutes. With World Cup qualification secured, there’s no better time to make that bet than right now.
I want to see a Cesar Montes, Johan Vasquez, Julian Araujo and Kevin Alvarez backline. Luis Chavez, Edson Alvarez and Erick Sanchez in midfield. Santiago Gimenez with Diego Lainez and Marcelo Flores in attack.
Again, I don’t think every single one of them is going to perform up to snuff or end up making the team in three years. But I’d much rather try to find out for sure, wouldn't you?
(And yes, this also goes for fan favorites Carlos Vela and Javier Hernandez. It’s pointless to continue to ask Vela to come back to the NT and while Hernandez’s plight to return to the squad made sense for this World Cup cycle, if he’s playing any sort of meaningful role for Mexico in 2026, it can only mean bad things for El Tri.)
Resolution #3: Get out of your comfort zone
This is not a ground breaking statement, but it’d be nice to have fewer US-based friendlies against C- competition.
I understand that money talks and as long as their US tours are wildly profitable, they will continue to have them. And I understand that part of why their rivals are usually so lackluster is the aforementioned monetary reasons.
(Let’s just say that you probably have to pay El Salvador a whole lot less than, say, Brazil or France. And that’s assuming they would even accept such an offer in the first place.)
I also don’t want to minimize the large diaspora of Mexican-American people who relish these games and see it - rightfully so - as an important link to their heritage and roots. This all matters as well.
But if Mexico are serious about taking a step forward in their level, they are going to have to bite the bullet and stop playing lopsided matchups against paid competition for the sake of making a buck. Speaking of which...
Resolution #4: Not everything is about money
I’m not completely opposed to the money making machine that the FMF has turned into.
The economic aspect is important in any organization and to be fair to the current leadership, they’ve managed to squeeze every single possible dime out of the Mexican National Team brand quite effectively.
(You can currently find both the official protein and protein stainless steel shaker of the Mexican National Team in select retail stores all over the country right now, which might mean they might have officially jumped the shark in terms of branded products.)
That being said, economic interests cannot be the only motivating factors. Yes, playing in CONMEBOL sponsored competitions might not be the most economically viable pursuit, but what you lose in pesos you make up in valuable minutes for your team playing against top tier competition.
Taking an L against the Argentinas and Brazils of the world is a lot less glamorous than lifting an umpteenth Gold Cup, but I guarantee that a young player is going to learn so much more from the former than the latter.
Resolution #5: Dare to dream big
There was a very amusing ad for a potato chips company running in the lead up to the World Cup in which announcers Luis Garcia and Christian Martinoli narrate a hypothetical scenario in which Mexico lead in the dying minutes of a Round of 16 matchup. There’s nerves, people screaming at the TV for the ref to end the game, and finally ecstasy as Mexico finally make it to the much desired quinto partido. People cry, hug their loved ones, dance, and celebrate on the streets as the ultimate goal is finally reached.
It’s a good ad and I can’t deny it gave me goosebumps and hope as Mexico prepared to kick off their World Cup campaign.
However, after seeing it a couple of times, a question occurred to me. Hey, if you’re going to go through all that effort to produce an ideal world in which Mexican fans literally run naked in the streets out of joy, why make it about making it to the quarterfinals? Why not about Mexico going all the way?
I guess not even an ad is enough for us to foresee a scenario in which Mexico win the World Cup.
And listen, I’m not saying that the odds are great. After watching some of the knockout stage games and the final, it became painfully clear to me how far El Tri is of being even in the same league of a team that is capable of winning it all.
But that’s my final resolution for the FMF. You have a unique opportunity as a co-host of the upcoming World Cup. You have a chance to make real history. Maybe you do, maybe you don’t, and I understand that it’s hard to toe the line between realistic expectations of improved performance and wild dreams of hoisting the cup, but why not at least hope?
Or as a certain blacklisted striker once said.
Imaginemonos cosas chingonas.
Onwards and upwards.