GROUP A
Mexico

THE 60-SECOND OVERVIEW

Mexico are usually easy to predict before a World Cup. They will be quite good in the group phase, scoring an upset or two and qualifying to the Round of 16. Then they will either crumble against inferior opposition or put up a good fight against a superior team before agonisingly crashing out.

This time around, however, making a forecast is a bit more complicated. The team was absolutely awful in the CONCACAF qualifying round, changing managers three times in the process. They have improved lately, but getting back to the old habits might prove tricky.

THE DREAM

Mexicans are optimistic by nature, so despite an underwhelming qualifying campaign, new coach Miguel Herrera has stated that their ambition is to win the whole thing. It sounds more like a motivation ploy than proper belief in the potential of the team, but he has a good poker face.

Getting out of their group is a more realistic marker of a decent performance. Do that and the Round of 16 would probably bring a game against Spain or Netherlands, in which El Tri would need a miracle to qualify to the quarters for the first time in 28 years.

THE NIGHTMARE

If Mexico play like they did in the qualifiers, they might end up losing all three games – something that hasn’t happened since Argentina 78, where the only good thing they had were their awesome Levi’s kits and midfielder Leonardo Cuellar’s afro. That team finished dead last, scoring two goals and conceding 12.

Nobody believes it’ll be that woeful this time around, but a shaky performance in their opener against Cameroon, which seems to be the easiest of the three matches, could set the team on a downward spiral towards disaster.

THE STATS
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PLAYER MOST LIKELY TO...

COME OUT OF NOWHERE: CARLOS PEÑA

Known as “Gullit” for his dark skin and long hair, this energetic box-to-box midfielder has the talent to attract the interest of some rich European sides after the World Cup.

PLAYER MOST LIKELY TO...

(NOT) BE BLAMED FOR FAILURE: MIGUEL LAYUN

Before turning things around and becoming a stalwart for the national team, the left-back was an object of derision as fans believed he wasn’t good enough to be a starter. They even created a Twitter hashtag every time the team lost: #todoesculpadeLayún (it’s all Layún's fault). No more.

PLAYER MOST LIKELY TO...

APPEAR ON A MAGAZINE COVER: ORIBE PERALTA

After failing to get a starting spot at his first four clubs, and because of his not wildly attractive visage, Peralta’s name was altered to “Horrible”. But he’s now the side’s biggest star and fans call him “Beautiful”. He’s already become the face of a big shampoo brand. Have a good World Cup and becoming a model might not be out of the question...

DID YOU KNOW?

As a player, coach Miguel Herrera was left out of the World Cup 94 squad for punching a photographer in the face in a league game a few weeks before the competition.

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Foot-draggers in qualification, Mexico need to hit the ground running to escape the group – and overcome difficult knockout opponents.