The little Mexican team prepares for the opening match of the World Cup against Poland

DOHA, Qatar – What do Andres Guardado, Guillermo Ochoa and soccer greats like Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi have in common?

Like Ballon d’Or winners, The threeThe veterans are now part of an incredibly exclusive group of players who have been called up to five World Cup Finals – a record yet to be broken by any player.

Besides Ronaldo and Messi, Guardado and Ochoa join players such as Germany’s Lothar Matthaus, Italy’s Gianluigi Buffon, and Mexicans Rafael Marquez and Antonio Carvajal, who have all competed in five tournaments. For both Guardado and Ochoa, this is an amazing stretch that began with the 2006 World Cup.

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But as Mexico prepares to start their World Cup campaign in Qatar on Tuesday, there is more ambivalence among fans and media than excitement about the veterans and several other members of Mexico’s old guard.

After coach Gerardo “Tata” Martino’s final World Cup squad was announced earlier this month – with an average age of 28.5 – eyebrows were raised when not a single player was under the age of 23, including noteworthy exceptions such as Santiago Jimenez. Feyenoord and Braga. Diego Linez.

There is no shortage of experience throughout the Mexican squad, but there are lingering concerns about whether some players are past the peak of their abilities. Combined with just three wins in their past nine matches in all competitions, Mexico’s form has many fans and pundits questioning just how resilient this Qatar team is.

A day before Mexico’s opening match against Poland, Martino backed up his group of underdogs.

“As I have always said, this national team, especially in the recent period, is very strong,” the coach said on Monday during the pre-match press conference. “From summer until now, the team has started to play really good games, but results in general haven’t followed suit.”

Will the results finally come out? The threeValid during the group stage of the World Cup?

Although Ochoa appeared to spend more time on Monday criticizing the Mexican media’s coverage than discussing Tuesday’s match against Poland, the goalkeeper actually tried to flip the script on one of the final talking points in the game. The three Not enough youthful energy in the team.

“There are a lot of young people [in our squad] “She has no World Cup experience. The passion of that first game, of that first World Cup, will always be there,” Ochoa said.

There may be the same level of passion for the 36-year-old Guardado, Mexico’s all-time freshman captain (178 caps) who stated that this would be his last World Cup, describing it as “the last dance”.

“I will play in the World Cup and [then] The Mexico captain told Rondo magazine earlier this year “My involvement with the national team is coming to an end, it’s my last dream. It’s the last chance to achieve something for the national team.”

Drive and motivation will come from Guardado, Ochoa and the many other veterans who have played a crucial role in Martino’s operation, but time will tell if this is the right mix of personalities for this World Cup.

For what it’s worth, focusing on veterans has worked in Martino’s favor in the past. Back in the 2010 World Cup, the Argentine coach took the underdog Paraguay squad with the same average age (28.1) as Mexico in 2022 to the quarter-finals of the tournament. Twelve years later, can Martino recreate some of that magic?

On Tuesday, the first big test of his roster will be against Poland, the team he is likely to battle with The three For the second and last place from Group C until the knockout round, with Argentina expected to win the group.

Traditionally, Mexico has had a more noteworthy presence at the World Cup finals since 1994 with their continued progression to the knockout round in seven straight matches – compared to only three group stage exits for Poland over the same period – but coach Czesław Miczniewicz won’t do that. Accept that Mexico will be favorites on Tuesday in the match at Stadium 974.

“We don’t look at Mexico that way – we are all in for the World Cup,” the Poland coach said at the press conference. We don’t give ranks to our opponents.

Goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny also agreed The three are not above them.

“I think the Mexican national team is at the same level as we are now,” said the Juventus goalkeeper. “It will be a fun game.”

Assuming Argentina won’t have too much trouble in Group C and Saudi Arabia doesn’t deal with any surprises, the three points available on Tuesday would greatly boost Mexico or Poland’s chances of qualifying for the Round of 16.

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if The three Able to get three points, it could have been enough for a full 180-degree turn to put a negative light on Martino and his aging team. Trusting veterans, on the biggest stage in sport, will once again prove they are on the road to success.

However, if Mexico loses, or perhaps draws, it wouldn’t be hard to picture Martino’s roster as a risky gamble. In a team that seems to have needed to replace young people and change generations, there will be a sense of painful decline during the World Cup.

Right now, Ochoa and Guardado will share the World Cup record for most World Cup call-ups, but if things don’t go in their favour, that could be all they bring home an early and potentially disappointing World Cup exit.

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