As Mexico’s opening World Cup match fast approaches, there has been plenty of anticipation about who will start against Poland. Mixed in with that has been dread that manager “Tata” Martino will not get it right.
The long-term injury absence of first-choice striker Raúl Jiménez and coach Martino’s insistence on keeping Rogelio Funes Mori in the mix is a prime concern for El Tri fans.
So reports that Henry Martín will get the starting nod have been met with a mixture of skepticism and anticipation. Martín had a brilliant Apertura 2022 with top-seeded América (10 goals, 5 assists) and he was the starting forward for the El Tri Olímpico side that came home from Tokyo with a bronze medal.
Monterrey man Funes Mori has been a favorite of Martino’s since his July 4, 2021, debut with El Tri, but the scoop is that Martín is more effective with his back to goal and his skills as a post player more neatly fit into the preferred offensive system.
Shuffling midfield options
Most pundits – and El Tri fans – are of the opinion that Ajax midfielder Edson Álvarez is Mexico’s best player. The América product is in fine form with the Dutch giants and was a stalwart in the El Tri midfield throughout the qualifying campaign.
So it was with some surprise when rumors started circulating that “Tata” was considering leaving Edson on the bench against Poland.
The trio of Carlos Rodríguez (right side), Héctor Herrera (central midfield) and Luis Chávez (left side) seemed to be favored to start against Poland after a decent performance against Sweden.
Rodríguez is a crafty playmaker who has been a fixture in the El Tri line-up when healthy; Chávez has impressed since making his national team debut in late April; and Herrera is a savvy veteran with superior vision.
But none of the three match Álvarez’s ability to patrol midfield, break up opponents’ moves and cover up teammates’ mistakes. And while Rodríguez has suffered a slip in form, Herrera has been out of action since August, logging only 61 minutes of playing time since Aug. 21, so the notion of holding out Edson was understandably worrisome.
Although we really won’t know Mexico’s starting XI until El Tri lines up for the national anthem, it appears as though “Tata” will install Edson in the center of the midfield line and shift Herrera to the right, opting for his experience over Rodríguez’s ambitious artistry.
El Tri history vs Poland
Mexico is 3-2-3 in eight games against Poland and is undefeated in the last five (3-2-0) after losing three times to the Poles in the 1970s, including a 3-1 loss at the 1978 World Cup in Argentina. The most recent meeting between the two sides came in November 2017 in Gdansk with Raúl Jiménez scoring the lone goal in a 1-0 victory.