Monday, March 17, 2008

Anatomy of a fracaso

Mexico failing to get out of the group stage in this Olympic qualifying tournament is a failure. Not even the most positive approach could paint the picture any other differently.

But to understand the depths of this failure - and the depths of many Mexican supporters' animosity and possible hatred of coach Hugo Sanchez - you need only examine just how many resources were poured into the Under-23 national team.

Many called this the Golden Generation of Mexican soccer, since the current young generation (19-22 year-olds or so) were part of Mexico's Under-17 World Championship squad of 2005. Already, the groundwork for future successes was seemingly laid in Peru. Elements of that team participated in the 2007 U-20 World Cup but the team fell short of reaching the final.

Still, the Olympics were supposed to have been another crucial part of their development. Hugo Sanchez even went so far as to promise a medal in the Beijing games.

The task of identifying players and pieceing together the Under-23 roster began in Denver in August 2007. Mexico played Colombia and lost 1-0 but that match saw the inclusion of guys like Santiago Fernandez, Edgar Castillo, Cesar Villaluz and Julio Cesar Dominguez, players who would go on to play a key role in the final Under-23 squad.

On Oct. 17, 2007, Mexico played Guatemala in Los Angeles. Like the Colombia match, this game featured some senior roster players such as Jonny Magallon and Gonzalo Pineda but included mostly players from the Under-23 pool. Three players who many felt would have made a difference in Carson this last week played in that game as Carlos Vela, Giovani Dos Santos and Andres Guardado all played in that match. Still, Mexico ended up losing to Guatemala 3-2.

Mexico tried to secure the participation of the aforementioned trio from their respective Spanish clubs but were unsuccessful in doing so. But the talent that remained was seemingly sufficient. The team gathered for preparation in early February as several Mexican clubs had to do without their participating players for the tour. Thus clubs like America (Guillermo Ochoa, Enrique Esqueda, Juan Carlos Silva) and Cruz Azul (Julio Cesar Dominguez, Cesar Villaluz) had to make do without some key players for quite a long stretch of the season (and in some cases international tournament matches).

Mexico lined up five friendlies as preparation for the tournament; three in Mexico and two in the United States. Everything seemed fine as Mexico started off with a 2-0 win over Chile. But then Ecuador beat Mexico 1-0 and Paraguay held Mexico to a scoreless draw. While the results suddenly were drying up, the squad itself was getting valuable time with each other.

Mexico then played a pair of games here in the United States, but both games were draws - a 1-1 tie with Australia and a scoreless game against Finland.

Yet despite the lack of results, Sanchez and the players were presenting a confident demeanor entering the tournament and even up until the final game.

So, ultimately Mexico not only had a talented roster to draw from - its league is one of the strongest on this side of the world - but the team spent a great deal of time together with nothing but this qualifying tournament to prepare for.

Mexico could have gotten its squad together two days before the start of the tournament and many would have expected the team to advance nonetheless. But having spent more than one month together, playing games, training, etc., it makes it even more catastrophic that Mexico did not so much as get out of the group stage.

When you look at it that way and couple it with previous broken promises, then, it's no wonder why many are calling for Sanchez's head.


Anonymous said...

Mexico refuses to see that the rest of the CONCACAF has improved. The coaching was fine. They just did not have talent to keep with the rest of the CONCACAF. There is a chance that Mexico or the USA may not qualify for the 2010 World Cup. Mexico was beaten by Guatemala in Los Angeles when Mexico had Vela, Dos Santos , and Guardado. Thus, I see future problems no matter who the coaches the teams.

just another one of you said...

i have to take time disagree with the above statement, if anything Mexico's preparation conveys that they took the competition seriously. Perhaps they believed their talent would come together on it's own, or the coaches lacked the ability to motivate.

To say that they didn't have the talent to keep up with the rest of Concacaf is ridiculous.

Good job, LB, pointing out how Hugo was set up for success

Anonymous said...

I think it's clear that a few CONCACAF teams have improved greatly, but to say that Mexico doesn't have the talent to keep up with the rest of CONCACAF is just ridiculous in more ways than one.

If anything, yesterday's game showed that if they had played that kind of soccer from the beginning, they would've most likely swept their group and qualified easily for the Olympics. What hurts Mexico is their mentality plain and simple. They either underestimate their opponents or lose focus, and in the end Mexico ends up defeating themselves.

Christian said...

Just to clarify something real quick. When Mexico played Guatemala in October, they played the senior team. On that night both Vela and Villaluz scored in the first half and Mexico seemingly had the game under control. When the second half rolled around Hugo made wholesale changes and Guatemala picked up and played their hearts out, not to mention Marvin Avila had a superb night scoring two awesome goals to beat Mexico.

People should really watch the games before talking out of their asses.

Anonymous said...

Whether they are the best in CONCACAF or not, they are good enough to watch the the Olympics on TV, Maybe next time they can make it to the finals.

Gabriel in Argentina said...

Luis..well done..I was wondering if the preparation time was going to be mentioned by someone. I agree, they did take the competition seriously although maybe not the opponents. Mexico has the talent but I think they lacked something. I have no idea of what that something is because I am not a football coach. The one thing that stands out for me is that Hugo keeps mentioning a "process" that he is undertaking. The question is, what is this process? What evidence do we have of a process (meaning some orderly method to achieve a goal). I don't think there is a process and the sooner we get a coach with one in mind, then these types of results will becoming more frequent. Hugo has an ego and it is working against him. While many Mexicans understand that the other teams have gotten better, Hugo may not be convinced yet.

Jim said...

I would argue that Maslow might say that you cannot motivate an individual but only know what their motivation is. It is not that Sanchez could not motivate his team but perhaps that he did not know his team well enough. Too many obstacles in the way to get them to what moves them as athletes. I really have to disagree with anyone who ever says "the coach could not motivate the team" because in essence they are fighting a losing battle from the start. They are there to plan, train, strategize, and find how each individual players needs meet up with the goals of the team.

Paulo said...

Hey, L.B., or anybody... if Hugo does get canned, who realistically is lined up to take the spot. Time is ticking...

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