World Cup 2014 Preview: Mexico eager to look forward

( - Mexico will be anxious to get the 2014 World Cup underway so that it can put a laborious qualifying campaign in the past.

Once the perennial powerhouse in CONCACAF, Mexico struggled badly in qualifying, finishing fourth and needing a gift from the United States just to reach Brazil.

First, there was the wonder-goal from Raul Jimenez which rescued a late win against Panama just to keep Mexico alive. Then El Tri was on the verge of staying home before the United States, which had already qualified for the World Cup, scored in stoppage time against Panama in the final round of matches to help Mexico clinch fourth place.

Miguel Herrera was then installed as the team's fourth head coach in qualifying, and Mexico rolled over New Zealand in a two-legged playoff by the aggregate score of 9-3, averting a crisis.

With that near-disaster now behind them, Mexico turns its attention to finishing in the top two in Group A, which features a heavily-favored Brazil side, Croatia and Cameroon.

Generally at this time much of the talk surrounding Mexico centers on whether or not the team will be able to get over the hurdle of the second round.

In each of the past five World Cups Mexico has been eliminated in the round of 16, so the obvious goal would be to reach the quarterfinals this year.

Argentina bounced Mexico at that point in the last two tournaments, and although that won't be the case this time, it's tough to figure out this team after such a dismal run in qualifying.

Herrera has only been in charge for about six months, and he is taking a bit of a gamble by pinning Mexico's hopes on 35-year-old defender Rafael Marquez, who will become the first player to captain his side at four different World Cups.

Marquez has been brought back into the fold and he will serve as the anchor of the defense, which could be risky considering his lack of pace and propensity for ill-timed mistakes.

Javier Hernandez is a familiar face up top for Mexico, but the team will also rely on some new blood as well with Oribe Peralta leading the team in goals in qualifying while Carlos Pena carved out a place in the midfield for himself with some strong performances recently.

One player who Mexico will miss in Brazil is 31-year-old midfielder Juan Carlos Medina, who figured to occupy a defensive role in the middle of the field but who will miss the tournament because of an ankle injury.

In order to advance to the knockout round, Mexico will need three points against Cameroon in its opening match because the second game against Brazil is unlikely to yield any points.

The final game of the group against Croatia could determine whether or not Mexico advances.

Should El Tri navigate its way to the round of 16, it won't face Argentina again, but a meeting with either Spain, the Netherlands or Chile wouldn't be easy.

Mexico's hope of reaching the quarterfinals for the first time since 1986 look unlikely, but maybe just getting out of the group should be considered a success.


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