WORLD CUP HISTORY: A regular participant at the World Cup, Mexico has qualified five straight times, advancing to the Round of 16 in the last four. El Tri are the most successful team from the CONCACAF region, having made it twice to the quarter-finals in 1970 and 1986.
QUALIFICATION: Though a perennial World Cup qualifier, Mexico barely made it to the final qualifying round in CONCACAF, needing goal differential to squeak past Jamaica. Sven-Goran Eriksson was the big manager signing ahead of qualifying, but he fell victim to his team’s poor form and was let go in favour of Javier Aguirre. The new coach righted the ship, allowing Mexico to finish second behind the USA in the Hex and qualify for South Africa.
KEY PLAYER: Cuauhtémoc Blanco. With a blend of youth and seasoned campaigners, Mexico once again will look to its midfield maestro in Blanco to orchestrate the team. The 37 year old starred in MLS with Chicago in recent years before heading back home to Veracruz to wind down his playing career. However, don’t mistake Blanco’s age with his impact on the game. He’s still one of the silkiest performers in the game, and though he may not last the full 90 minutes in a busy World Cup schedule, he will be key to Mexico’s hopes.
EXPECTATIONS: Mexico’s hopes will begin in a traditionally very tough match in the World Cup opener against the hosts South Africa. On paper, Group A is supposed to be France and Mexico’s to lose, but Uruguay and South Africa will make this one of the tightest groups in the tournament. Mexico, despite their past, could be in tough to advance.