Thursday, April 2, 2009

Mexico Wasted Valuable Time With Sven

When a national team turns in its least productive World Cup since ‘78 after a four-year uninterrupted process it's time for a change. A change which should not only remove a manager and bring in another, but also rejuvenate the player pool and enables a natural transition between generations.

After struggling through the 2007 Gold Cup, Hugo Sanchez began this transition adequately. Pardo, Osorio, Salcido and Borgetti were removed from the roster for the 2007 Copa America and replaced by Jaime Correa, Fausto Pinto, Israel Castro, and Juan Carlos Cacho.

The results were self-evident. Coming from a disappointing 1-2 defeat to the United States in the final game of the Gold Cup, Mexico opened up Copa America with a resounding 2-0 victory over Brazil.

The team continued to play attractive football and players like Castillo, Ochoa, Guardado and Landin seemingly became the new torch-bearers for Mexico. Despite the 0-3 defeat vs. Argentina that kept Mexico at the semifinal round, El Tri went on to claim the 3rd place spot in the competition.

In the following months, Sanchez continued the transition process. Salcido, Pardo, Marquez, Borgetti, and Osorio were overlooked in call-ups and despite their European employers, were generally regarded as part of the old guard. In their place, Sanchez continued to include a new group of, young and not so young, players who were eager to earn their first shot with the national team.

The objective was clear under Hugol: Establish a new group of players within the national team, ready to be the core for the next World Cup period leading up to 2010, and when appropriate, look to the old group for reinforcements in players who kept their form, maintained their level, and won their way back to the team.

But while Hugo, the most egomaniacal character in Mexican football, was hard at work building El Tri for the next four years, behind closed doors, Jorge Vergara, the most megalomaniacal character in Mexican football, was hard at work politicking for greater power within the Mexican Federation.

Vergara began launching criticism after criticism toward Hugo Sanchez at every misstep and eventually became the spokesperson for all those who opposed Sanchez’ tenure.

When Sanchez was sacked in 2008, Vergara headlined the campaign to bring in a ‘renown’ European manager to lead the team..

Fifty-percent star struck, and fifty-percent “malinchista” the Federation agreed to hire Sven-Goran Eriksson.

Once Sven was in charge, the doors that had previously been closed on aging veterans were blown wide open. Sven’s limited knowledge of the Mexican game (combined with the questionable advisors that were appointed to him) limited opportunities for younger players and forced an over reliance on aging “heroes” like Pardo, Oswaldo, and Marquez.

Now that Sven has lost his job, the next manager will have the task of continuing the transition process that Hugo Sanchez had begun and effectively identify which Mexican players will take the torch from the generation of the 2000s that can be categorized as nothing other than a failure.

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