Qualifying for the 2014 World Cup seemed simple from the outset for Mexico; a bye to the third round qualifying groups, six wins out of six and everything seemed in order.
Then all that remained was a simple task of finishing in the top half of a six-part group and World Cup qualification was secured. What followed was not on their schedule.
Five draws, only two wins and also being outscored by three to lowly Panama meant that the usually comfortable process was made a whole lot more taxing. Mexico were thrown into a intercontinental play-off against New Zealand, who famously avoided defeat at the last World Cup group stage and finished above Italy.
Thankfully for the Mexicans they got their act together and cantered to a 9-3 aggregate victory with Oribe Peralta grabbing five goals in the process. Qualification was secured and they could breathe a sign of relief.
The South Americans will be hoping history doesn't deal them another busted straight; think back to Carlos Tevez's controversial opener in Germany four years ago. Until that moment Mexico had held their own and for the first time in four tournaments they dreamed that they could get past the first knockout stage, but Tevez's brace and a solitary strike from Higuain saw to that.
There was clearly room for improvement but the talent was present as it showed at the Olympic games in 2012 where they stormed to gold, beating the much fancied Brazil side, and much of that side resembles the core of the current set up. Players such as Giovani dos Santos, Hector Herrera and Marco Fabian have since gone on to be important cogs in the Mexico machine.
Opinions are very similar on their progress upcoming to this tournament, some believe that they will oust Croatia and make it out the group stage, some feel that they might not have the ability all over the pitch to quite match Croatia. Bookmakers make them the same as Croatia to go all the way at 150/1 being the general consensus.
In my opinion I don't think they will make it out of the group and will lose narrowly to Croatia, however Mexico have a reputation for high tempo, high pressure football that can make supposed larger teams uncomfortable, coupled with natural South American ball retention ability this could be something that might change matters.
Their fans will be hoping that their talisman, Manchester United's Javier Hernandez has not suffered in terms of match sharpness due to his lack of playing time under recently disposed manager David Moyes and the 'little pea' will be hoping to possibly impress transfer window suitors.
Hernandez aside the talent of the rest of the side isn't in question, yes a majority of the team do still play back in their native Mexico, but players that have made the jump to Europe and even to the M.L.S have made it comfortably, and most are considered key member's of their respective squads.
Take Giovani dos Santos who seemed to fall by the wayside when he didn't hit the heights expected of him at Tottenham, but he's been reborn under a resurgent Villarreal. As mentioned Hernandez of Manchester United made quite the impression in his first season with 20 goals in 45 games.
Other imports like Hector Moreno of Espanyol, who was voted their player of the season in 2012, Andres Guardardo despite being only 27 has played for Valencia and Deportivo for a number of years and now is a key player in a Leverkusen side which is challenging at the top in Germany.
The old adage of Mexicans being tough and quick to adapt seems to ring true based on current viewing and this World Cup is their chance to go one step beyond. The energy and pride of the Mexicans always makes for good viewing, so here's hoping for a spicy showing.
Probable Finish: Group stage exit
Star man: Javier Hernandez, one of the best natural poachers in the Premier League, guarantees goals on and off the bench and will be as hungry as anyone for the occasion.
Spring a surprise: Diego Reyes, young, intelligent and unusually tall for a Mexican standing at 6'4, he has the attributes to make for a long term stalwart at the heart of the defence, and was also present during the Olympic win at only 19, which earned him a transfer to Porto.
Something to prove: Giovani dos Santos, born to Zizinho, signed by Barcelona, expected to light up Tottenham, it hadn't quite worked out for the playmaker until he established his reputation again at Villareal. He needs to prove late bloomers do exist.
Who should have been on the plane: In my opinion I think the 23 man squad taken by Miguel Herrera is probably the strongest 23 they have to offer. if I had to choose one player possibly Jesus Zhavala of Monterrey would have possibly added some steel to the midfield but nobody else really jumps out at me.
Value bets: Group points 4. 10/3 (Bet365), Top team Goalscorer. Javier Hernandez 9/2 (888sport), Over 4.5 goals conceded. 11/10 (SpreadEX)
*all odds correct as of May 2013
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