Very little rides on Mexico’s Confederations Cup contest today with Japan – unless your name is Jose Manuel “Chepo” de la Torre.
Mexico’s embattled boss, staring at an increasingly dim record in 2013, one that includes just one win in 11 matches, may be confronting his Waterloo today in Belo Horizonte’s Estadio Mineirao (2:30 p.m., ESPN2).
Japan and Mexico have both been eliminated from group play, reducing Saturday’s contest to a “friendly” in competitive terms. Meanwhile, few supporters are feeling very “friendly” toward the man who has presided over the Mexican offense’s disappearance.
Fans were chanting “Fuera Chepo” earlier this month, clearly fed up with the manager who debuted in the position two and a half years ago. Blessed with an emerging “Golden Generation” of young attacking talent, hopes were high that “Chepo” could not only guide Mexico to Brazil 2014 but get El Tri past its recent sticking point at soccer’s quadrennial global showcase.
Mexico has reached the Round of 16 for the last five World Cups – but just cannot escape the first match of elimination play, falling out of the tournament in the first match past group stage at each World Cup since 1990
This version of El Tri would struggle just to escape the group stage. Halfway through final round World Cup qualifying, Mexico is third in the CONCACAF region it was expected to rule. Lack of goals as been the big issue. Three strikes in six games is hardly where a team blessed with so much attacking vigor – Manchester United’s Javier Hernandez, Mallorca’s Giovani dos Santos and Valencia’s Andrés Guardado (pictured) most notably – was expected to be.
Most infuriating of all, the team has yet to score in three home qualifiers.
After the latest night of frustration at Azteca, yet another scoreless draw, “Chepo” may not have made it to the team bus with his job. But the team was bound quickly for Brazil and the Confederations Cup, so the tight timing may have rescued de la Torre for the time being, providing one more chance for the team to shake its offensive funk.
The team has, at least, demonstrated some resolve, pushing Italy in a 2-1 loss and battling Brazil gamely in a 2-0 loss. Is that enough?
It probably depends on what happens today against a quick, technically proficient Japanese bunch. A win, especially with a badly needed offensive breakout, might get “Chepo” into the next stretch of qualifiers, coming up in September. Another day of dour offense – Mexico is utterly bereft of anything creative with the ball at the moment – could spell doom for de la Torre.