Mexico is heading into their eighth consecutive World Cup appearance, having been eliminated at the last 16 stages in each of their last seven entries.
Former Argentina boss and player Gerardo Martino is the man tasked with breaking that cycle in Qatar, having been in charge of El Tri since January 2019.
The 60-year-old, who spent a season with Barcelona before taking the Argentina job in 2014, guided Mexico to their eighth Gold Cup triumph by beating the USA in the final in 2019 before the Americans gained their revenge on his side two years later.
Mexico’s place at the World Cup was secured with a 2-0 win against El Salvador on the final matchday, as they finished level on points with Canada at the top of CONCACAF qualifying, and crucially three points clear of Costa Rica in the play-off spot.
Whether they have the talent at their disposal to make a serious fist of reaching the last eight for the first time since hosting the tournament in 1986 remains to be seen, but their upcoming fixture against Poland could be crucial in terms of advancing from Group C.Mexico open their World Cup Group C campaign against Poland at the what is perhaps Qatar’s quirkiest venue, Stadium 974, on Tuesday 22 November. El Tri will be looking to get out of the group for the eighth consecutive time and Robert Lewandowski will hope his club-level form carries on to fire Poland through to the next round.
Poland has no problem scoring goals of late, with Lewandowski netting 9 and getting 4 assists in qualifying. Curiously, he has never scored at a World Cup, but to be fair, he’s only had 270 minutes in total at the tournament, as Russia was his only previous appearance, so don’t let the headlines sway your thinking.
Mexico, well, they haven’t got Robert Lewandowski in their team, nor have they got anything remotely similar. Instead, they’ve got Raúl Jiménez, a late selection for Gerardo Martino and someone who has done a lot of things this season: none of them include playing football or scoring goals. Edson Álvarez and Hirving Lozano could bring some spark to the team on the ball, but we’ll have to see if they can overcome their recent stodginess.
I know we’re all just getting into the swing of having all the football all the time (great, isn’t it), but this game could already be crucial in how things shape up for Group C: Argentina is expected to take the top spot so the fight for second place could come down to who wins this battle. Three points here and a win against Saudi Arabia would be enough to reach the Round of 16.
When considering the prediction for Mexico, we draw attention to the fact that Gerardo Martino has been working with the national team for more than three years, whose track record includes work in Barcelona and the Argentine national team. When qualifying for the championship, the Mexicans took second place in the CONCACAF zone after Canada. Before the start of the tournament, they held several test matches, which ended with varying success. The basic scheme of Mexico is 4-3-3, where an important role is given to fast and technical extreme midfielders (Lozano, Vega, Alvarado). Under Martino, Mexicans play tough pragmatic football, with defensive players mainly in the center of midfield. Even the technical and intelligent captain Guardado plows in defense on par with everyone. The leader of the locker room continues to be an experienced goalkeeper Ochoa (the fifth World Cup in his career).
When choosing a prediction for Poland, first of all, you pay attention to the fact that Robert Lewandowski and Piotr Zelinski are in the squad. Both are in crazy shape this season. Lewandowski immediately fit into the Barcelona squad, and Zelinski dragged Napoli to the long-awaited Scudetto. Shortly before the start of the World Cup, Poland was joined by right-back Matty Cash, who had been waiting for a call-up to the England national team for a long time but decided to play for his second homeland (his mother is Polish). This is a powerful reinforcement of the Poles. The team was led to the championship by Mikhnevich, who replaced Paulo Souza as head coach in the winter (he left for Flamengo). He immediately put things in order and reconciled with some stars who did not want to play under the leadership of the Portuguese. Under Mikhnevich, the national team made it through the play-off matches to the World Cup. Poland’s entire game is focused on Lewandowski, although there are other high-quality forwards in the squad, Milik, Sviderski, and Piontek.
Mexico vs Poland Prediction
Poland has grown in stature over the past decade but has flattered to deceive on the international stage. Robert Lewandowski has been in impressive form this season and will need to be at his lethal best in a difficult group.
Mexico has consistently punched above its weight at the World Cup in the past but has a few issues to address ahead of this game. Both teams are evenly matched on paper and could play out a draw on Tuesday.
Prediction: Mexico 1-1 Poland.