Only four countries have appeared at more World Cups than Mexico, who will be making their 16th finals appearance in Russia this summer.
Usually a safe bet to make it out of the group stage – along with Brazil and Germany, they are the only nation to have reached the knockout rounds in each of the last six tournaments – the Mexicans have been eliminated in the round of 16 in every World Cup since 1994.
Mexico’s squad, which includes 39-year-old Rafael Marquez in this his fifth World Cup finals appearance, is vastly experienced, with 15 players selected for duty in Brazil four years making the cut again this time.
All 23 members of Juan Carlos Osorio’s squad made at least one start in qualification, with no Mexico player having less than ten international caps to his name.
Osorio’s side face their toughest test in the Group E opener against Germany, which takes place on Sunday 17 June in Moscow. An encounter with South Korea follows six days later in Rostov before Mexico round off their group fixtures with a match against Sweden in Yekaterinburg on Wednesday 27 June.
Road to Qualification
Mexico were the first CONCACAF nation to qualify for this year’s tournament, doing so with three matches to spare.
El Tri’s only defeat in 16 qualification matches came in their very final fixture – a 3-2 loss to Honduras – with their passage to Russia already assured.
Entering CONCACAF qualification at the fourth-round stage, Mexico coasted to the “Hexagonal” with two matches still in hand, having seen off the challenges of Honduras (who joined them in the fifth round), Canada and El Salvador with minimal fuss. Only Honduras managed to take a point off the Mexicans in the final group encounter, with Osorio’s troops scoring 13 goals and conceding just one along the way.
Winger Jesus Corona top-scored for Mexico in this round, scoring on three occasions.
The “Hex”, as the final round of qualifying is commonly referred to in North and Central America, proved to be almost as straightforward as the previous stage.
A late Marquez header gave his country a 2-1 away win over the United States in Mexico’s opening group encounter, which was backed up by a creditable 0-0 draw in Panama (who remained unbeaten at home) and victories over Costa Rica, Trinidad and Tobago and Honduras.
A 1-1 draw with the United States in Mexico City took the hosts to the brink of qualification, which duly came in the following 1-0 home win over Panama.
A draw with Costa Rica, a 3-1 win over Trinidad and Tobago and a final-day defeat to Honduras rounded off Mexico’s “Hex” campaign, which saw them score on more occasions (16) and concede fewer goals (seven) than the other two CONCACAF nations to qualify for Russia.
Osorio has generally favoured a fluid 4-3-3 in qualification and in subsequent friendlies, but this is a malleable squad with several players capable of operating in different roles: Fantasy managers who love an “out of position” asset will likely find several in this Mexico squad, which we will discuss below.
CONCACAF Fifth Round
Most starts: Diego Reyes, Hector Herrera (8), Guillermo Ochoa, Hector Moreno, Javier Hernandez (7), Miguel Layun, Carlos Vela, Jonathan dos Santos (6), Giovani dos Santos, Raul Jimenez, Carlos Salcedo (5)
Most goals: Hirving Lozano (3), Javier Hernandez, Carlos Vela (2)
Most assists: Miguel Layun, Carlos Vela (3), Hector Herrera, Jesus Corona (2)
Mexico’s only real notable absentee through injury is centre-back Nestor Araujo.
Just one of Mexico’s seven post-qualification friendlies has ended in defeat, that being a 1-0 loss to Croatia in March. Mexico have victories over Poland, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Iceland and Scotland to their name since November, while matches against Belgium and Wales ended in draws.
The Key Targets
Javier Hernandez (£6.4m in Fantasy iTeam | £8.5m on McDonald’s FIFA) will be the name most familiar to many Fantasy Premier League managers, having spent last season with West Ham United and five years with Manchester United prior to that.
“Chicarito” ended 2017/18 with eight goals and two assists for the Hammers, though didn’t manage to hold down a regular starting spot in the West Ham side from November onwards.
Two goals and one assist in seven qualification starts also represent modest attacking returns, but barring injury Hernandez is a near-certainty to line up as Mexico’s lone centre-forward.
One Mexico player who might be joining Hernandez in the Premier League soon is PSV Eindhoven winger Hirving Lozano (£6.3m on Fantasy iTeam | £8.0m on McDonald’s FIFA), who has been linked with a move to Everton in recent days.
Listed as a midfielder in Fantasy iTeam, Lozano will likely line up as an inverted left winger in Osorio’s 4-3-3 and frequently cut inside onto his favoured right foot.
Though he made only two starts in the final round of qualification, Lozano top-scored for Mexico in the “Hex” with three goals and grabbed a brace in the 3-3 draw with Belgium in November.
Lozano also has two assists to his name in recent international friendlies and comes into the tournament off the back of a superb debut season in the Eredivisie, in which he scored 17 goals and supplied eight assists for PSV.
Carlos Vela (£6.3m on Fantasy iTeam| £7.5m on McDonald’s FIFA) is the leading candidate to line up on the opposite flank to Lozano, again as an inverted winger.
The former Arsenal and Bolton Wanderers forward scored two goals and supplied three assists during qualification, also setting up Giovani dos Santos’ winner in the 1-0 victory over Scotland on 3 June.
The Long Shots
The versatile Miguel Layun (£5.5m in both games), listed as a defender in Fantasy iTeam, is a player that Fantasy managers should monitor.
Able to play in both full-back positions, Layun is just as likely to feature in central midfield, with Osorio short of options in the middle of the park.
No Mexico player recorded more assists than Layun during qualification (three), two of which came from Layun’s pinpoint corner-kick deliveries.
The Porto midfielder, who spent last season on loan at Sevilla, also scored twice in the 3-0 win over Iceland in March.
Hector Herrera (£5.9m on Fantasy iTeam | £6.0m on McDonald’s FIFA) is a guaranteed starter in centre midfield and offers Fantasy managers the incentive of set-piece duties.
The box-to-box midfielder scored a spectacular free-kick in the 3-1 home win over Trinidad and Tobago in qualification, while two of his incisive through-balls led to assists during the “Hexagonal”. McDonald’s FIFA list Herrera as a defender, meaning he will also be entitled to four clean sheet points should Mexico shut out any opposition defence.
A leg injury has blighted Andres Guardado’s (£5.7m on Fantasy iTeam | £8.5m on McDonald’s FIFA) World Cup preparations, but the Real Betis midfielder is another sure starter in the engine room if his fitness concerns are over.
Guardado – who can also play as a winger or as a full-back – has scored on 25 occasions in 144 appearances for the national side, with spot-kick responsibilities the main attraction for Fantasy managers.
Like Herrera, Guardado possesses an excellent long-distance shot and is yet another option Mexico have from direct free-kicks.
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