Miguel Herrera vows Mexico won’t be intimidated by Brazil
No matter what happens, Mexicans know they will go into last match against Croatia still in contention
Mexico’s Oribe Peralta after scoring the winner against Cameroon in their opening game at the Estadio das Dunas in Natal.
The side achieved its first objective with an opening match win against Cameroon, its first ever against an African side at the tournament.
It means no matter what happens against the favourites in the sweltering cauldron that is the remodelled Castelao Stadium in Fortaleza, Mexico know they go into their last match against Croatia still in contention for a place in the knockout stages.
After the shambles of a disastrous qualifying campaign – when they relied on a last-minute favour from the USA to bail them into the tournament behind Costa Rica and Honduras – that will be fine with most Mexican fans looking at a group containing the hosts.
But Miguel Herrera, the country’s fourth coach in a little over six months, has promised his side will not be intimidated by the five times world champions.
“We’re thinking big. We know they will have the support of the crowd, that we will be very much the visitors, but we’ve beaten them once and we know we can do it again,” he promised over the weekend.
It was a suitably bullish prediction from a man who missed the 1994 World Cup after he was suspended for punching a photographer. His side could do with some of his cussedness. At senior level Mexico have a well-earned reputation for been too obliging, too willing to roll over for more illustrious rivals, too fond of glorious failure.
The win Herrera was referring to was the 2-1 victory in the football final at the London Olympics which denied Brazil the one international title it has never won.
The gold medal followed victory, again against Brazil in the final, at the Under-17 world championship in 2005. These youth titles were meant to herald a brighter future at senior level.
Last decadeBut despite a rivalry that has grown in the last decade largely thanks to these victories in the junior categories and a famous 2-0 win in the 2007 Copa America, Mexico still remain firmly in Brazil’s shadow.
The Brazilian press has talked up today’s game as revenge for the Olympic defeat. But Neymar, Oscar, Thiago Silva, Marcelo and Hulk, who all played in London, have already achieved that having featured for the senior team in last year’s 2-0 group game victory at the Confederations Cup.
Herrera was not in charge then and has shuffled the squad since as he seeks to break a wretched World Cup history in which his country has only ever managed two quarter-final appearances, and both of those as hosts.