Mexico heads to Russia after Denmark defeat 'more united than ever'
BRONDBYVESTER, Denmark -- You couldn't blame the Mexico national team if it was secretly delighted to leave Denmark; it hasn't been a particularly positive six days for El Tri in the Scandinavian country.
Tabloid stories about a party after the 1-0 victory over Scotland on June 3 have seemed to troll the team as it entered a vital stage of its preparation for the World Cup. Then there was the news that Diego Reyes is still not fit and, to finish it all off, Mexico lost 2-0 to Denmark on Saturday in a display that didn't instill confidence.
"I think that all the national teams have their own problems, some injuries, some players' behavior and we are not the exception," coach Juan Carlos Osorio said at a news conference after the defeat. "As it is right now, we just occupy our minds trying to keep training and keep preparing the games and our team the best way possible to have a good World Cup. I think it will take just one good game and then everything can change and hopefully, that will be the case."
Mexico will look at the June 17 opener against Germany as an opportunity to play that "one good game" required to spark the team.
Despite reports the squad is divided, that hasn't been on show in recent days, although the situation with Hector Herrera leaving camp to visit his family on Wednesday is clearly not ideal.
Crucially, though, the players have shown no sign of not believing in Osorio and, behind the scenes, there is frustration in the group about the way the party has been reported.
"Imagine coming out and explaining every situation or lie that [the media] says without information," Andres Guardado said after the Denmark game. "It makes us laugh and we're swept away by the amount of stories that are put out without information. If they don't have information, they invent stuff.
"The most important thing for us is that the group isn't damaged and that it is healthy," Guardado continued. "We are more united than ever because when you go through situations like we have this week, instead of breaking us, we unite more. That's what's happened this week."
El Tri will prepare for the World Cup at Dynamo Moscow's training complex on the northwest edge of Russia's sprawling capital. The national team will be closed off from the hullabaloo of the tournament and will likely give limited access to the press. Right now, it's what the group needs after its stay in a central Copenhagen hotel where media and fans could mingle.
The focus has to move on quickly to on-field issues ahead of arguably the most difficult opening game a team could face at the World Cup.
Outside of the tabloid news stories and speculation, Mexico fans will worry that one goal scored over the three preparation games highlights a significant problem. Osorio countered that by saying on Sunday that these games have been all about giving players minutes; the plan and starting team to face Germany is set already and has been kept away from the prying eyes of the media.
"I'm not sure that the starting team [against Denmark] will be what the coach puts out for the next game," goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa said. "There are always people watching and [Osorio] has said, 'Don't show your arsenal.' He wanted to give continuity, rhythm and minutes to players and that is what he was looking for in all these friendly games."
The time for ironing out mistakes and systems is almost over. Mexico has hardly covered itself in glory this week but, as Osorio hinted, football can change very quickly and there is little left but to channel all the energy into succeeding in Russia.
If Mexico can reach the quarterfinals, this group of players will return as heroes. If it doesn't, recent events will become an infamous part of the team's history.
Tom Marshall covers Liga MX and the Mexican national team for ESPN FC. Twitter: @MexicoWorldCup.