El Tri (as the Mexican national team is known), has competed in seven straight World Cups after being banned from the 1990 event. The team also has seven straight appearances in the Round of 16.
Year after year, though, that is where their World Cup journey has ended.
Mexico has been knocked out of the tournament in the Round of 16 seven consecutive times. They will be looking to break through to the quarterfinals and beyond at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, but they will first need to make it out of Group C.
The team opens the group stage against Poland in a match that could very well decide the Group C table and determine which of the two teams advance to the knockout stage. El Tri follows that up with a match against group favorite Argentina before closing out the group stage against Saudi Arabia.
Reaching the knockout stage hasn’t been a problem for decades, but World Cup broadcaster Andrés Cantor has three key concerns about the Mexican national team heading into the 2022 World Cup:
The health of Raúl Jiménez
Raúl Jiménez is an experienced forward who has played at the top club levels in Mexico, Spain, Portugal, and England. He overcame a fractured skull that he suffered in November 2020 but was dealt another blow when he injured his MCL this past July.
Jiménez has since returned to the pitch with Wolverhampton of the Premier League. Still, Cantor has reservations about the impact on his overall status.
“That is going to set him back a month, if not more, of match fitness going into the World Cup,” he said. “Doesn’t sound like much, but considering we are in the final stretch, that could be a factor depending on how his injury evolves.”
Converting on scoring opportunities
Mexico placed second in the CONCACAF World Cup qualifying table with 28 points. However, scoring was not its strong suit.
El Tri found the back of the net 17 times in 14 matches, trailing Canada (23) and the U.S. Men’s National Team (21). Jiménez led the way with three goals, while Alexis Vega and Henry Martin each scored twice.
If Mexico wants to make it out of Group C, Cantor believes it will need to capitalize on its ample chances.
“They have to have a much higher conversion rate,” Cantor said. “They don’t lack opportunities to score goals – they just don’t score them.”
Perhaps the biggest battle Mexican players will face in the group stage will be in their own heads.
The team has continually repeated its performances at the World Cup without breaking through to the quarterfinals since 1986. Cantor thinks ignoring outside noise will be crucial to Mexico if it wants to break through in 2022.
“If they can abstract themselves from all the pundits, all the pressure that the public creates every four years for the Mexican national team to get to the fifth game … then they can have a good group phase and a good World Cup.”