Manuel Veth –
On 17th June at Moscow’s Luzhniki Stadium, Mexico will kick-off their World Cup campaign against the holders Germany. El Tri should be confident going into the Finals in Russia. They progressed through Concacaf qualifying with ease, have a wonderful young talent in Hirving Lozano coming through the ranks and could certainly qualify from a group that also contains Sweden and South Korea. Qualification from a World Cup group, however, is often dependent on getting off to a good start in the tournament.
That is where Mexico might run up against something of a brick wall. Consider some of these facts about Germany: They have at least reached the quarter-finals (or equivalent) in every World Cup for the past 64 years.
They have scored a record-breaking 43 goals in qualifying for Russia (Mexico scored 16 goals in the same number of games). They also posted a 100% record in qualifying. In fact, Germany have lost just one World Cup qualifying fixture in the last 32 years (September 2001, vs England).
Avoiding defeat would be an incredible feat for Mexico
The point of the above is to illustrate just how relentless and ruthless Germany have been, especially in the early stages of major tournaments. Even when looking at Germany vs. Mexico best betting odds, things seem a little bleak for fans of El Tri. 15/2 is the price offered by Betfair for a Mexico win, but surely Juan Carlos Osorio would settle for a draw (7/2). Germany, incidentally, are priced at around 4/9 and it’s arguable that the bookmakers have erred with a generous price on the champions.
None of this is supposed to discourage Mexico fans from dreaming of qualification from Group F. Indeed, they have been rightly installed as 11/10 second favourites with William Hill to qualify behind Germany (1/14). Sweden (5/4) lack something of an x-factor in the absence of Zlatan Ibrahimović, nor is this South Korea (11/4) side the force of a decade ago.
Mexico can look to Senegal in 2002 as inspiration
Of course, upsets can happen at a World Cup. Germany, who are regarded as second-favourites at around 9/2 with most bookmakers (Brazil edge it with most sportsbooks at 4/1), will be haunted by the spectre of Spain (2014) and France (2002), both of whom exited in the group stage of a World Cup as defending champions. Indeed, re-watching the exploits of Senegal in 2002 and Chile in 2014 would serve Osorio’s players well going into this fixture.
However, it still comes back to the fact that they will, barring a huge upset, be going into the second round of fixtures with zero points. That game, against South Korea on 23rd June(Rostov Arena), is going to take on a huge importance for Mexico. Win and they are back in the qualification hunt, with a showdown against Sweden on 27th June (Central Stadium, Yekaterinburg). Lose or draw, and it will seem highly unlikely that Mexico make the knockout rounds for the fifth World Cup in succession.
Perhaps the best, or most realistic, hope for Mexico is that they can put on a good performance against Germany, one that galvanises the team for the remaining two fixtures. Coming away with their heads held high may encourage the Mexican players to have some belief in getting out of the group and going one better this time in the knockout rounds. If they can get something out this incredible Germany side, they will deserve everything good that comes their way.
Manuel Veth is the owner and Editor in Chief of the Futbolgrad Network. He also works as a freelance journalist and among others works for the Bundesliga and Pro Soccer USA. He holds a Doctorate of Philosophy in History from King’s College London, and his thesis is titled: “Selling the People’s Game: Football’s transition from Communism to Capitalism in the Soviet Union and its Successor States,” which is available HERE. Originally from Munich, Manuel has lived in Amsterdam, Kyiv, Moscow, Tbilisi, London, and currently is located in Victoria BC, Canada. Follow Manuel on Twitter @ManuelVeth.