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Jun 10, 2014

Mexico's starting eleven

SANTOS, Brazil -- Over the past couple of days, I have spent most of my time at the side of the Mexican National Football team as they toured around the United States.

I have chatted to both players and members of the training team, and these are the conclusions I have drawn regarding this final eleven -- the famous eleven Miguel Herrera has chosen to face Cameroon during Mexico's 2014 World Cup debut this Friday in Natal.

In goal, they tell me Guillermo Ochoa, who has demonstrated maturity, playing and training at a high level, and who has grown professionally while playing in France, deserves the title of first-choice goalkeeper.

Jose de Jesus Corona has also done very well, yet this is not a marketing scheme. Yes, Memo Ochoa sells more papers, but this would not be so if he were not a good goalkeeper. In fact, the sponsors of the national team, adidas, also sponsor Corona, while Ochoa is sponsored by Nike.

In defense, Diego Reyes has been left behind. I am told that his passing is not as accurate as it needs to be for this level of competition. He is 21 and under a lot of pressure, but he will have his moment in the spotlight.

Maza Rodriguez is one of Miguel Herrera's most trusted players. Herrera has spoken to him and asked him to put to one side all the bickering from the past, concentrating just on the game.

I believe the experience brought to the team by way of the "European" players makes all the difference; the experience of Hector Moreno and the captain Rafael Marquez stands out.

Paul Aguilar on the wing is another trusted player and is perfectly familiar with the coach's system.

The situation with Miguel Layun is noteworthy; having returned to Mexican soccer after a brief stint in Italy. He started playing for Club America, where he had no choice but to play on the wing -- it was the only way he was ever going to get a game with Las Aguilas.

Mexico hopes to strike gold again with Olympic heroes Oribe Peralta and Giovani Dos Santos up top in attack.
Mexico hopes to strike gold again with Olympic heroes Oribe Peralta and Giovani Dos Santos up top in attack.

It was difficult in the beginning, with Layun being widely ridiculed on social networks with the famous hashtag "#TodoEsCulpaDeLayun" -- or "everything is Layun's fault." The 25-year-old midfielder decided to go to a psychologist to channel all the negative energy into something positive.

And just like that, he is about to earn his first cap playing in a World Cup, representing his country.

In midfield is where a lot of changes needed to be made. Herrera once told me during an interview that he believes that the two best players of the national team are Hector Herrera and Luis Montes.

Concerns over Carlos Pena had been mounting ever since his manager at Club Leon, Gustavo Matosas, began substituting him to see if his performances would improve. Therefore, Andres Guardado has been chosen. The so-called "little Prince" has arrived and trained well, filling Miguel Herrera with a lot of confidence, but above all he's been getting good results.

Up front, we have Oribe Peralta and Giovani dos Santos. Gio deserves respect, seeing as up to a month and a half ago he didn't even know if he would be called up, let alone that he would have a place on the first team. It's hard to believe, considering the great year he has had at Villarreal.

The "Cepillo" Peralta deserves his moment of glory, an opportunity to show us, again, that streak of excellence that resulted in the Olympic Games triumph and the success at Santos. We hope that this duo can make the difference.

As for Chicharito Hernandez, Miguel Herrera mentioned that he looked stressed. He has had a difficult year at Manchester United, and therefore the coach believes that he will play best starting off on the bench.

I still think the manager has been given a hot potato, but it's still a hot potato many other coaches would love to have a crack at dealing with. We must not forget everything that has happened in the lead up to this game, not to mention the little amount of preparation time.

We hope that now that the starting team has been confirmed, the players can begin to jell, and as Guardado said, "When the pressure is removed is when we actually grow as a team."