Mexico’s national team has been branded as the ‘Giant’ of the area by fans and the Sports media. For many years that label was well suited for Martino’s squad. It is worth noting that the Mexican national team has not missed a World Cup appearance since 1990.
But, that has dramatically changed. Although they have qualified for every FIFA world cup since 1994, they have never made the jump from a regular participant in the tournament to an actual championship protagonist or contender. Only once, in 1986 were they able to qualify to the quarter- finals, when they were the host nation. We have to admit and be honest, that the label ‘Giant of Concacaf’ does not apply to the team anymore.
Why has the Mexican national team not elevated its level of play in the games that matter? The answer may be a lot easier than what people think. Most often then not, coaches are responsible for the success of their teams. In the case of the Mexican national team, Non-Mexican coaches have left more to be desired than the national ones. By non-Mexican coaches I mean, coaches who are not familiar with the country, the people and of course the league.
If we look back to the last 26 years, we know that Mexico has made it to the round of sixteen of the FIFA world cup on every occasion. But in some, they have looked better than in others. The common denominator for that success has been that the coach leading the team has been coaching in La liga MX. Yes, Mexico has had better success when competing in the FIFA tournament with a national coach. France 1998, Korea-Japan 2002, Germany 2006 and Brazil 2014 are the World Cups where Mexico has not only qualified for the second round, but also looked promising.
The golden age of the Mexican national team is mostly considered to be 1993-2006. During that span, Mexico finished second and third in a few Copa Americas, won the 1999 FIFA Confederation cup and qualified for the world cup every four years. The coaches: Miguel Mejia Baron, Manolo LaPuente, Javier Aguirre and Ricardo Lavolpe. All four coaches were experienced and knowledgeable of the Mexican players and environment.
They all spent time developing, nurturing and mentoring young Mexican talent. They also developed a love for the colors of the Mexican Jersey, they feel when they win and also when they lose. That sort of feeling is not taught. In my opinion, that is the biggest difference between a process led by a National coach and a foreign coach, for example a Mejia Baron and Osorio process.
Lavolpe was born in Argentina, but he made his career in Mexico. He is considered someone who knows the league very well. Note that my argument is specifically saying that a National coach, and not stating a Mexican born coach. In that particular category, Lavolpe who was born in Argentina, but made coach in Mexico will be considered National. We know of Martino’s resume, and knowledge as a coach. But, we also know that he is new to the league and the country.
In order to succeed, and make the jump to a contender in the World Cup, Mexico needs a coach that is familiar with the players, ala Lavolpe or Herrera, or Aguirre, or Mejia Baron, you get the point. Also, someone who will be willing to take a process that starts at the end of a World Cup and take the team all the way to the following. Martino, just like Juan Carlos Osorio or Sven Goran Erikson are strangers to the Mexican league.
The current National team will go to the World Cup, but with no realistic chances of winning the cup, or even making it to the round of 8. That is not Martino’s fault, that is the Federation bosses who keep underestimating the Mexican based talent.