Limited by injuries to Mexican captain, Rafa Marquez, and Libertadores ties for both America and Guadalajara, freshly humiliated (and hopefully humbled) Hugo Sanchez released his roster for the upcoming friendly vs. Ghana in London.
The 2 most notable names are Guille Franco, the naturalized Argentine who returns to Tri duty after a two year absence, and Aaron Galindo, who is also no stranger to controversy. Galindo was banned from the sport for a year and then essentially black-balled by the Mexican league and FEMEXFUT. Galindo showed enough wherewithal, though, at Spanish 2nd division Hercules and Suisse's Grasshoppers before landing in the bundesliga. Eintracht Frankfurt took a chance on the young defender, and Galindo has certainly made the most of it -- firmly entrenching himself on the German back line. Meanwhile, Franco has been a pleasant surprise at resurgent Villarreal, and since European experience points are worth more than 30 Mexican league experience points, Sanchez had no choice but to call him up.
The most important part of this call up is the fact that for the first time ever the amount of players who wear their hard hats in Europe reached double digits. And that did not even include Marquez and Hector Moreno, who is just now getting some playing time in AZ-Akmaar. Mexico has been within shouting distance of playing at an elite level, but just hasn't been able to break through. Mexico has been able to this relying almost solely on local league players.
It is no secret that Sanchez needs a positive result after the catastrophic failure of not even advancing past the group stages last week in Carson. Ghana, however is no push-over, and are out to feel good about themselves as well after a disappointing semis exit in the CAN they hosted. Moreover, Ghana has talent that is littered all over the Euro leagues. The best player from both sides will be dressing for the black stars: Michael Essien, who is the epitome of a world class player. It is a pity that his World Cup mid-field partner, Stephen Appiah will not be playing beside him. They were a devastating combination last year in Germany.
Sanchez bombarded his predecessor with relentless criticism, including using naturalized players. He includes the same 2 that Ricardo La Volpe took to Germany. I really don't have an issue with naturalized players. A lot of folks tend to confuse nationality with culture. If players are Mexican citizens, and are eligible to play for Mexico, that's fine with me.
The absence of America and Guadalajara players is going to hurt. Memo Ochoa, who had a sub par showing in Carson last week, and Jhonny Magallon will not be available. I do think, though, that the player who Mexico will miss the most is Luis Michel. Michel has been nothing short of spectacular as he has helped Chivas surge to the top of the league by only allowing 6 goals and chalking up 6 clean sheets. He deserved the call up.
This game will be an excellent test for Mexico as they build up toward a hopeful world cup birth. It is very likely that Mexico will have to fight with an African team and the group seed for one of the knockout spots.
Could it be that one day Mexico can field a team with a majority of European players? I concede that just playing Europe isn't enough. It is where you play in Europe that can help your maturation as a player. Mexico has talented players in important roles across Europe. Is it going to be enough for Mexico to crash the party of the truly elite National sides?