El Tri is set to face Iraq on Wednesday, a friendly they’ll play without most of their expected World Cup starters who remain on duty with their European clubs.
Three of those “European” players squared off (yes, I know, three players don’t make a square) at the Johan Cruyff ArenA on Sunday in a classic Eredvisie rivalry match – Ajax-PSV Eindhoven.
Midfielder Erick Gutiérrez played the villain, scoring the eventual game-winner for visiting PSV to lift the “Boeren” past Ajax into first place.
Guti’s performance prompted a strong reaction on social media with most commenters declaring that the Pachuca product deserves to be a starter for El Tri. Though rarely a starter for Gerardo Martino, the Sinaloa native has been in fine form this season, patrolling the middle of the pitch and delivering pinpoint passes to PSV teammates.
For his part, Ajax star Edson Álvarez caused two separate scuffles – one after the final whistle – after a frustrating match that saw two of his headers stopped at the goal line by PSV keeper Walter Benítez.
Tales from El Tri training camp
The friendly against Iraq finds Mexico with most of its first-choice defenders available – Héctor Moreno, Néstor Araujo, César Montes, Jesús Gallardo, plus Kevin Álvarez – as well as all three goalies. Probable starting right fullback Jorge Sánchez was the third El Tri man on the pitch in Amsterdam so he is not available.
The focus for Coach Martino will be up front where second-choice strikers Rogelio Funes Mori and Henry Martín will be battling for the chance to claim the starting spot should Raúl Jiménez fail in his race for fitness.
El Tri managed only 17 goals in 14 World Cup qualifiers and Jiménez’s health issues get most of the blame for the poor production. The Wolves man has not been the same since November 2020 when a violent clash of heads with David Luiz resulted in a fractured skull.
Jiménez is currently battling a sports hernia that has kept him out of action since Aug. 31. The Hidalgo native has been traveling back and forth between Wolves and El Tri, working with medics and trainers in both camps in hopes of being cleared to play.
The lanky striker is in Spain with El Tri though his training has been limited and it would be a huge surprise if he sees any action on Wednesday against Iraq. It is more likely that he would be given minutes next Wednesday (Nov. 16) in Mexico’s friendly against Sweden if he continues to improve.
“Tata” is said to be weighing the possibility of waiting until Nov. 21 – the day before El Tri’s World Cup opener against Poland – to make a decision regarding Jiménez. FIFA rules allow teams a 24-hour window to adjust its official roster due to injury.
Prospects for the other injured El Tri star – Sevilla’s Jesús “Tecatito” Corona – are not so positive. Though the slick winger is ahead of schedule in recovering from a broken leg, the word out of Sevilla is that he will not be fully recovered before December.