Mexico World Cup Preview & Analysis: Schedule, Roster & Projections
Pictured: Hirving Lozano.
- Mexico cruised through CONCACAF qualifying to reach the World Cup.
- Does El Tri stand a chance in Qatar?
- Nick Hennion breaks down rosters, a schedule and full tactical analysis.
The 2022 FIFA World Cup has arrived, and Action Network's staff of soccer experts are here to take you through each and every team that will be participating.
Read on for a full breakdown of Mexico ahead of the tournament, and click here for analysis on each of the other 31 teams.
Mexico World Cup Preview
Mexico are a team that likes to throw caution to the wind and attack, attack and attack.
Under new manager Tata Martino, who previously managed the Argentina men’s national team from the 2014 World Cup until July 2016, Mexico like to get out in transition to try to score at will. Among their key attacking pieces are Raul Jimenez of Wolverhampton Wanderers, Hirving Lozano of Napoli and the up-and-coming Santiago Gimenez of Feyenoord.
With those attackers, Martino encourages a high-pressing style of soccer. That approach was clear at the 2021 Gold Cup, where Mexico created 21 big scoring chances across six fixtures.
Additionally, with this Mexico team, there’s little aversion to taking shots. In those same six Gold Cup fixtures, Martino’s side took a whopping 114 shots. However, only 39 of those efforts found the target, so Mexico can be assumed as a quantity over quality shot team entering this World Cup.
|Chances To…||Action Projections||bet365 Odds|
|Win Group Stage||20.27%||+500|
|Advance To Knockout Round||52.75%||-110|
|Win World Cup||0.67%||+15000|
|Odds as of publish. Action projections by Nick Giffen of the Action Predictive Analytics team.|
But with all that attacking prowess comes a trade-off, and it comes in defense. Oddly, this is a team with talented defensive midfielders, but they just can’t seem to put it together with the back-line. In the middle of the park, Ajax’s Edson Alvarez and Hector Herrera, now with the Houston Dynamo but previously with Atletico Madrid, help provide cover for a defense that prefers to keep a high-line.
Defensively, a big chunk of players that occupy Martino’s back-four come from Liga MX and aren’t used to facing the attacking talent of Europe. Just at the 2018 FIFA World Cup, Mexico surrendered an alarming five goals on 6.5 xG against Sweden, Germany and Brazil.
Although the defense surrendered only three total big scoring chances at the 2021 Gold Cup, one might question how heavily to weight that given the level of opposition. Just in the final against the United States, Mexico allowed three total big scoring chances.
The good news for Mexico? They possess a goalkeeper who is capable of standing on his head at any given moment and rescuing this Mexico side. Guillermo Ochoa, who plays for CF America in Liga MX, accomplished just that in the 2018 World Cup. Among all 32 nations that participated, Ochoa had the eighth-best post-shot xG differential and conceded only six goals on 7.5 xG.
Should Mexico have high hopes for this year’s World Cup, Ochoa – who is now 37 years old — will either have to rescue this Mexico defense, or the back-line will have to improve drastically on their underlying metrics.
All of that said, it’s still worth noting that Mexico have demonstrated an exceptional ability to emerge from the group. El Tri have reached the knockout stage seven years on the bounce, but they have never reached the quarterfinals in those seven tournaments.
Key Player: Hirving Lozano
Given how poor the Mexico defense has played against top opposition, that will put extra weight on the attack to try and keep up.
For Mexico, Hirving Lozano is generally a known quantity – the Napoli representative created 1.3 total xG at the 2018 World Cup and has generated 0.87 xG + xA per 90 minutes in his first 10 fixtures with Napoli this year.
But there are some extenuating circumstances that might allow opponents to focus on Lozano and force Mexico’s remaining attackers to win the match. Case in point, striker Raul Jimenez’s status for the World Cup is in doubt after picking up a groin injury earlier this season.
Additionally, forward Carlos Vela, who led Mexico in xG at the 2018 World Cup, has effectively been blacklisted from this squad.
Without those two players, a below-average tournament for Lozano could spell an early exit from Mexico in a group that features plenty of attacking talent.
However, there’s simultaneously an optimistic case to be made with this attack. If Lozano is able to replicate his form with a high-flying Napoli side AND Jimenez returns from injury to his top form, the Mexico attack might cause problems for group favorites Argentina and Poland.
We touched on this briefly earlier, but Mexico deploy a 4-3-3 formation with a high back-line and loads of pressing.
The one notable variation with this Mexico formation is that the midfield three doesn’t feature a false number 10. Some teams will deploy a player like that to help provide a link between the defensive midfielders and the front-three, but Martino prefers a flat-three in midfield, all of whom are defensive-minded in nature.
Two of those players – Alvarez and Herrera — have shown glimpses in the past of becoming a scoring threat. But for the large part, these two — along with Jonathan dos Santos – will serve as more defensive-minded midfielders that protect the high line.
Further, likely as a result of their penchant for allowing chances, this is a Mexico team that prefer to play with the ball rather than sitting back and attempting to counter. Although previous manager Juan Carlos Osoria sometimes placed true strikers in winger roles, Martino is much more traditional and will play true wingers in their positions.
From there, Mexico will work diagonal balls into the box in the hopes of finding an aerial threat.
Based on that strategy, teams that play well against Mexico will have fast forwards who can get in behind a back-line and defenders used to playing through pressure.
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Mexico World Cup Schedule
|Poland||11 a.m. ET, Nov. 22|
|Argentina||2 p.m. ET, Nov. 26|
|Saudi Arabia||2 p.m. ET, Nov. 30|
Most Recent World Cup Result
Round of 16 (2018)
Two wins in their first two group stage games secured a knockout berth for Mexico in 2018, but a 2-0 loss to Brazil in the Round of 16 quickly ended any Cinderella hopes for Mexico.