I got this from Luis Bueno's Sports
Illustrated column on Mexico's preparation for the World Cup. It should be
compared to England's preparation (or lack thereof).
World Cup three-step
the Mexican national team has three games on its schedule that matter:
South Africa on June 11, France on June 17 and Uruguay on June 22. El Tri
will play upwards of 12 other games before helping to usher in the 2010
World Cup. Ultimately, those results will be meaningless, but that's not
to say those other matches are of no significance.
Mexico's pre-World Cup calendar isn't quite fully complete, the Mexican
Football Federation filled many of the blanks on Thursday by naming five
of the six opponents for Mexico's U.S.-based friendlies. Also, FMF
executive Nestor de la Torre all but filled out El Tri's European
friendly slate with three matches to be played in May and possibly June.
Save for a
couple of dates here and there, Mexico's calendar has been filled out
rather nicely. While de la Torre said Thursday that the U.S.-based
friendlies are part of a two-step process, the entire friendly calendar
can be divided into three parts: observation, gathering and focusing.
Observation games: Bolivia (Feb. 24 in San Francisco), New Zealand
(March 3 in Pasadena, Calif.) and Iceland (March 17 in Charlotte, N.C.).
These games will give coach Javier Aguirre the chance to test out
players -- and tactics as well, if he so chooses -- against some
lightweights. Playing against lesser opponents is normally not a great
thing, but in this case what matters most is how players respond to an
international setting. Bolivia, New Zealand and Iceland will fit the bill
just fine. Mexico should probably win these games, but the wins and losses
Gathering games: Ecuador (May 7 in New York), Senegal (May 10 in
Chicago) and an opponent to be determined (May 13 in Houston). You can
also add Mexico's May 16 match against Chile at Estadio Azteca here, a
game the Chilean federation had previously announced. These games will be
Mexico's first set after it announces its roster for South Africa, and the
beginning of its final World Cup preparations.
Focusing games: England (in May), Netherlands (May 26 in Austria) and
Italy (in either late May or early June in Brussels). De la Torre said the
FMF was working out the details for the England and Italy matches, as the
Dutch game had already been confirmed. This is as close to the World Cup
as Mexico will get before setting foot on African soil. There's little to
hold back here, not because the results matter but because this is a
chance to iron out the kinks before the scores count.
will play another game at home in March, rumored to be at the new
Territorio Santos Modelo stadium in Torreón, which will provide Aguirre
another opportunity to see potential Cup-bound players in action. The
roster will come together by April. In all likelihood, Aguirre already has
more than a dozen slots filled, but rounding out the rest of the squad
won't be an insignificant chore as every spot is a coveted and important
That's at least 12 matches Mexico
will play in preparation. Meanwhile England will play three preparatory
matches, one in March against Egypt and two in May, almost certainly against
Mexico and Japan. No doubt some would say I ought to count the friendly
against Brazil last November in Qatar as a preparatory match, but no one took
that match seriously and most of England's best players didn't bother to show
up, so I don't include it.
The attitude in England is that
friendlies are meaningless. They don't seem to understand that a team needs
friendlies to prepare for the unfriendlies. Actually, they do realize it, but
they're not willing to make the sacrifices, costly to their precious club
football, that proper preparation would require. But instead of admitting
that, they pretend friendlies are a waste of time.
I'm not saying England should play as
many matches as Mexico. But we might do well to remember that England
played 12 matches, three of which were home internationals, in the season
ending in their only World Cup victory in 1966, against Wales and Austria in
October, Northern Ireland in November, Spain in December, Poland in January,
West Germany in February, Scotland in April, Yugoslavia in May, Finland and
Norway in June and Denmark and Poland in July.
If that all happened too long
ago, then take a look at the last and only other time England did well in the
World Cup, 1990, when, following their last qualification matches against
Sweden and Poland in the preceding September and October, they played seven
friendly preparatory matches between November and June, against Italy,
Yugoslavia, Brazil, Czechoslovakia, Denmark, Uruguay and Tunisia (the latter
because England were to play Egypt in World Cup group play). All save the
last were played at Wembley, thus minimizing travel disruptions of domestic
As for what Bueno calls the
Observation stage of the preparatory matches, it ought to be remembered that
neither David Platt nor Paul Gascoigne--both of whom played instrumental roles
in England reaching the World Cup 1990 semifinals--were established in the
England team before the string of friendlies leading up to the World Cup.
Note that the Mexico team will be
playing sufficiently often that when they play their first World Cup 2010
match, they will be the equivalent of a club team reaching form together after
a month's league play. England will have played three exhibition matches
over three and a half months. Those who think this makes no difference have
no appreciation of football.
I read a Press Association report
that "Capello's belief is that, coming from the same region, Mexico will offer
England the best possible guide to what they are likely to face from the
United States, even though many of Bob Bradley's players, including star man
Landon Donovan, are currently based in Europe."
Mexico as preparation for the U.S.A.
because they come from the same region? The two teams have always
played totally contrasting styles of football. Has Capello lost it? Or is
this just a lame English invention designed to cover the almost total lack of
preparation for the World Cup. Only the Egypt match in March has any
relevance to any of England's group opponents (Algeria). The Mexico match
might help a bit if England meet Latin opposition at some point. God knows
why they're playing Japan as their final preparatory match, other than to have
Once again I do not expect too much
from England in the World Cup--perhaps a quarterfinal appearance again at
best--because the entire English football establishment--the Football
Association, the clubs, the fans, the media--fails to recognize what must be
done to reach the last stages of the World Cup. Still, I will be very happy
to be proven wrong.