One thing is certain about the roster that Mexico will eventually take to the World Cup: there won’t be many surprises when the squad is announced to Qatar in a few short months.
Manager Gerardo Martino has stuck with a veteran group of players since he took over El Tri in 2019. Some role players and young prospects have been in and out of his rosters, but for the most part, Martino has relied on the team that won the Gold Cup in Chicago that summer. That shouldn’t change this winter in Qatar, and the proof lies in two recent comments from Martino.
"There will be a lot of opportunities," Martino said. "Many (players) have chances to make the final roster for Qatar."
Mexico will play a series of friendlies on U.S. soil beginning on May 28 against Nigeria. Mexico will face Uruguay and Ecuador in June and Paraguay in August. The purpose of those games, as well as yet to be officially announced friendlies against Brazil and Peru in September, will likely be to fine tune Martino’s first-choice squad rather than experiment with alternatives.
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Martino has been criticized for this approach. Pundits in Mexico claimed that the Argentine manager didn’t even watch Liga MX games (yet 12 Liga MX players were on his final World Cup qualifying roster), while others bemoaned his lack of flexibility when choosing a starting XI. Consecutive World Cup qualifying losses away to the United States and Canada in November didn’t help, either. In fact, it only underscored Mexico’s urgent need to keep up in a region that they long dominated.
Canada troubled Mexico with disciplined defending and a noticeable speed advantage, while a young U.S. side played with more intensity in Cincinnati during their 2-0 win. Martino’s lack of job security coincided with a worrying goal drought for Mexico. Yet, Mexico recovered (albeit tenuously) and was still able to qualify in second place of the CONCACAF Octagonal, ahead of the U.S. and tied on points with first-place Canada.
With qualification secured, Martino was finally able to breathe again, and whether his detractors in Mexico like it or not, he’s the man who will lead El Tri at the World Cup. A tough group awaits Mexico, as they’ll face Poland, Argentina and Saudi Arabia in Group C. Teams may be allowed to take a 26-man roster versus the traditional 23-man lists from previous World Cups. A final decision from FIFA has not been made yet, but that seems a likely concession by the sport’s governing body.
Locks: Guillermo Ochoa, Alfredo Talavera, Rodolfo Cota
Locks: Gerardo Arteaga, Jesús Gallardo
Locks: Néstor Araujo, Héctor Moreno, César Montes, Johan Vásquez
Lock: Jorge Sánchez
Locks: Edson Álvarez, Héctor Herrera
Locks: Erick Gutiérrez, Carlos Rodríguez, Andres Guardado
Locks: Hirving Lozano, Jesús Corona, Uriel Antuna, Diego Lainez
Locks: Raúl Jiménez, Henry Martín, Alexis Vega
Predicted 26-man Mexico World Cup roster
Goalkeeper (3): Guillermo Ochoa, Alfredo Talavera, Rodolfo Cota
Left fullback (2): Gerardo Arteaga, Jesús Gallardo
Center back (4): Néstor Araujo, Héctor Moreno, César Montes, Johan Vásquez
Right fullback (2): Jorge Sánchez, Julio César Domínguez
Defensive midfield (2): Edson Álvarez, Héctor Herrera
Central midfield (5): Erick Gutiérrez, Carlos Rodríguez, Andres Guardado, Luis Romo, Orbelin Pineda
Winger (5): Hirving Lozano, Jesús Corona, Uriel Antuna, Diego Lainez, Marcelo Flores
Striker (3): Raúl Jiménez, Henry Martín, Alexis Vega