It wasn't supposed to be like that. Mexico had a legion of players earning checks in Europe after Germany'06 and had a bushel of young players ready to make the leap to the senior side.
Qualifying for South Africa went from a minor inconvenience to an arduous task for Mexico. Poor planning, hasty decisions, and questionable player choices almost knocked Mexico out of the Semi-final round. To be fair to SGE, he had zero time to work with the team before qualifying started. His first match as coach was a home qualifier vs Honduras.
Once the Hex started, it was more of the same. It all started in Columbus. Mexico's training sessions were limited by the mud pit they were given as a practice field (which prompted SGE's "fair play" comments after learning that the US had practiced in the Buckeye Bubble. His players were...
out of shape: Nery Castillo was subbed out with a bum hammy after just a half hour; out of their league: Leandro had been a great midfielder once, but that was in 2004;
out of their mind: Rafa went the full Marquez on Timmy Howard, earning a straight red;
bereft of experience: Gio was just 18.
And there was Carlos Ochoa, who did not belong on a club team, much less the starting forward on the National team.
It was klausterfÿken from the start, and it spiraled precipitously downward from there. Even the anointed savior, Javier Aguirre, lost his first match at the Cuzca. Aguirre, though, did have a Gold Cup to see if could right the ship. He did, and Mexico did not lose in the Hex again, qualifying with a game to spare.
All that worryin' for nothing. And there was plenty of worrying.
Fast forward to Brasil'14 qualification. Mexico has been solid, deliberate, organized, and, well, unspectacular. And they dulled their way to six straight wins.
Expect more of the same in the upcoming Hex.
The José Manuel "Chepo" de la Torre era in the national team has been defined by organization and discipline. He has skillfully handled PR issues that would usually His style of play won't get high marks in artistic impression, but it's hard to argue with the results. In official matches, he has notched 12 straight wins. It doesn't hurt, though that Chepo has access to what is easily the deepest player pool Mexico has developed since his generation of the late 1980's (who were denied their chance to play in Italia 90 thanks to the stupidity of the FMF suits). In addition to the players that won the Gold Cup, Chepo has started to integrate the players that won the Gold Medal in London. 6 such players were called up for the Hex opener vs. Jamaica (8:30 PM CT, ESPN2).
Despite his success, Chepo is stubborn to a fault. Time will tell if his rigid style gets in the way of any future success. For now, though, it's working. If a solid, deliberate, yet unspectacular flavor leads to a ticket to Brasil'14, then that is exactly what is going to happen, 3 G's be damned.
Which is light years away from 4 years ago when Mexico had no idea how to play, win, or if they would even qualify to South Africa.