One of our favorite columnists, Martin del Palacio, has posted his 2009 wishes, so I thought I would follow suit.
1. Mexico qualifies for the world cup with games in hand.
Mexican soccer puffs out its chest, self-proclaims excellence, lights cigars with Benjamins, then wonders why its team has to hope the Canadian defense can hold Jamaica to qualify. My biggest wish for 2009: Humility. Change is always all around us, and Mexico's extreme arrogance when it comes to the quality of play in its region cost them one humiliating ouster, and came very close to costing them another.
While Mexico has been busy admiring itself in the mirror, CONCACAF teams have improved. Mexico can't be bothered to assess other teams, much less consider them a threat. How has that been working out for them lately? Hopefully, SGE learned his lesson, and will have his players in the right frame of mind as they play their 2 toughest road tests in the first three qualifiers. Good results here will set the tone for the remaining games, and could propel Mexico to late summer ticket-punching.
2. Giovani Dos Santos and Nery Castillo get minutes.
I am not a Spurs fan (at least not the Tottenham flavor), but I have to think that they would be willing to try just about anything to get out of their funk. I am not saying that Gio is the answer, but now that he is recovered from injury, he certainly merits a look. What do they have to lose?
As for Nery, he just needs a team that wants him. After falling off the grid, he re-emerged for Mexico and had moments, but couldn't shake off the rust. Rumors have him linked to Almeria, where he can play for the one guy who wants him most, freshly appointed skipper, Hugo Sanchez. Wherever he ends up, I hope he gets back into rhythm because Mexico needs his scoring punch, and he is just desperate to get back to playing.
3. The US, Honduras, and Mexico all qualify for the World Cup.
I am tired of CONCACAF being relegated into the minnow pot in the world cup. Granted, they have only won 2 knockout matches in 20 years, but this time around, these guys won't be so easy to kick around. Granted, Mexico and the US have used up all of there surprise sauce, but Honduras is such an untamed unknown that it should scare the hell out its group-mates (provided they qualify).
Nothing would be cooler if "the rest of the world" outnumbers the Europeans in the knockouts. These three, along with Oz, Parazilgentina, and the home team Africans could make for some very compelling arguments in 2010.
4. The US has a good showing in the Confed Cup.
The US riding a great wave right now, but unless they do well in South Africa against some very strong opposition, they'll more than justify FIFA's reasoning for bunching up CONCACAF with Asia. I don't expect the US to win every game, or lose every game, but I do think that anything less than 4 points would be a huge disappointment.
5. A Mexican Team finally wins the Libertadores.
They have gotten shock results, come close, but they have yet to hoist the trophy. This is a great tournament, a very prestigious tournament, and it deserves Mexican clubs full attention. I was embarrassed a few years ago when America had a chance to go the final, but sent a reserve squad for the second leg of a semi final vs. Santos because they were still in the local hunt. This, after begging to be included in the tournament. Needless to say, the karmic gods did their work. They won neither.
finally, some selfish wishes: I hope Mexico gets a result in Columbus, the Champions League final four has only one english side, Hugo not only keeps Almeria from relegation but qualifies them for europe, and Barack Obama follows through with his proposal to end the idiotic bowl system in college football.
Happy New Year