For a team currently ranked 17th in the world the fortunes of the Mexican national football team have not always been one of success. A country currently housing a population of approximately 11m people witnessed a team which had only won one
The Mexican Primera Division contains 18 clubs divided into three groups competing for two league titles. As is often the case in Latin American football the championships are spilt into a winter (Apertura) and a summer (Clausura) tournament. Mexico is also represented in the Copa Libertadores although they have never supplied a winner. Currently there is very little money being pumped back into the top level of the sport, despite huge incomes made through the huge fan bases of the Primera Division clubs and from playing international friendlies in the USA. This has resulted in the removal of the bid for the 2018 or 2022 World Cup due to lack of investment, both public and private into the facilitation of new stadiums.
In Mexico people under 30 make up 40% of the population and as a consequence government investment in sports and education is a top priority. Most recently $500 000 of both government and private money has been invested into a new youth sports project in Leona Vicario to provide sporting development to a huge number of young people, most of whom are unemployed.
Being a North American country, Mexico is part of the CONCACAF confederation and is seen as the real powerhouse of this area. The Aztecas were red-hot favourites to finish top of the qualifying standings but instead had to settle for second place behind the USA in what was an inconsistent qualifying campaign. Losses against the likes of Jamaica and Honduras and a draw against Canada signalled a very poor start which was only rectified with a strong surge towards the end of qualifying with wins over Costa Rica, Trinidad and Tobago, Honduras, Salvador and a draw in the final game in Port of Spain against Trinidad and Tobago.
On top of the indifferent form were many issues behind the scenes with the coaching staff. Stand-in Coach Jesus ‘Chucho’ Ramirez began the campaign in charge before Sven Goran Eriksson was appointed Head Coach. Eriksson was to last 13 matches over a total of 10 months in charge before being replaced by Javier ‘El Vasco’ Aguirre – the Aztecas former Head Coach from the 2002 World Cup . Mexico will, however, be going into the competition in high spirits following some fantastic football played in the later qualifying matches and also the successful 2009 Gold Cup where they were crowned champions with a 5-0 win over the USA. Key to this resurgence in qualifying and the Gold Cup success was Tottenham and former Barcelona forward Giovani dos Santos. Despite struggling for form with his club, dos Santos was instrumental when brought in for the win over Costa Rica in which he provided two assists and a goal and also managed a strike in the final of the Gold Cup. A player once key to the golden generation first witnessed during a successful Under-17s championship, he may well start to fulfil his potential at this summer’s tournament.
Mexico’s most famous current player is Barcelona’s Rafael Marquez. An uncompromising and adaptable central defender or midfielder with a venomous strike, much of the Aztecas’ hopes will rest on the shoulders of their inspirational captain. Other elder statesmen such as Carlos Salcido of PSV and Stuttgart’s Ricardo Osorio will be key for a team hoping to go further than the Last-16 defeat to Argentina in 2006. One player having somewhat of a resurgence with the national team is Cuauht