As Mexico prepares to play in Honduras tonight with a spot in the Concacaf Nations League and the 2024 Copa América at stake, two questions remain unanswered. Who will start in the point of attack and will newly naturalized winger/forward Julián Quiñones make his El Tri debut?
Coach Jimmy Lozano did not tip his hand during his Thursday presser, coyly responding that he has used Quiñones in several positions during this week’s training camp.
Lozano also declined to reveal which among Santi Giménez, Henry Martín and Raúl Jiménez would start in the proverbial No. 9 position.
Whatever the answers to these questions, El Tri – sitting at No. 12 in the FIFA World Rankings – is expected to come back from Central America with an advantage against world No. 78 Honduras.
Honduras a tough place to play for El Tri
Mexico is 11-4-5 all-time vs “Los Catrachos” but is 3–2-4 in Honduras. The most recent meeting in Central America – a World Cup qualifier on March 27, 2022 – saw El Tri escape with a 1-0 victory with midfielder Edson Álvarez scoring the game-winner in minute 70.
Mexico dominated the match – enjoying 68% possession and firing off 18 shots (but just three of those were on target) – but struggled to generate great chances as Honduras played their typical rugged defense, committing 21 fouls (El Tri was whistled for 13 infractions).
If recent history is any indication, the big challenge for the hosts will be finding a way to score.
In the past 12 encounters between these two Concacaf rivals, Honduras has been shut out 11 times. The lone game in which they scored was a World Cup qualifier in 2017 played in San Pedro Sula. Tonight’s contest will take place in Tegucigalpa.
Plenty of anticipation
While Mexico’s defensive set-up is pretty well established (Guillermo Ochoa in goal, César Montes and Johan Vásquez in the middle of the back line, with Edson Álvarez and Luis Chávez patrolling midfield), coach Lozano is expected to continue tinkering with the offense.
Although El Tri has been able to find the net – 13 goals in the past six games – the attack has been inconsistent, with a nagging incapacity to finish off moves forward.
Too many shots are blocked by defenders, crosses are sprayed inaccurately through the box and odd-man rushes are ruined by poor decisions.
The inefficiency up front is the primary reason pundits and fans are eager to find out how Quiñones will be used.
The 26-year-old Colombian-born forward has been a dangerous attacker for Atlas and América the past four years.
Quiñones helped the Zorros win back-to-back Liga MX titles and has been a big reason why América finished atop the league standings this season, his first with the Aguilas.
JQ scored 6 goals – tied for most on the team – and added 5 assists in 14 games with “Los Azulcremas.” It is expected that his blend of strength, speed and power will add a new dimension to the El Tri attack, but the question remains: where will he play?
Coach Lozano did say he has used Quiñones on the wing and as a secondary striker behind the No. 9. The newest member of Team Mexico has excelled in both positions with Atlas and América.
If so utilized in a 4-3-3 line-up, winger Orbelín Pineda is likely to be sacrificed while a switch to a 4-4-2 could see both Pineda and Hirving Lozano replaced, with an attacking midfielder (Erick Sánchez?) inserted to assist Quiñones and whichever striker gets the nod.
For now, all we can do is wait and see what decisions coach Lozano makes. Most fans will be disappointed if Quiñones does not get on the pitch tonight. But if he is held out in Honduras, he surely will make his debut on Nov. 21 at Estadio Azteca in the second leg of this all-important series.