The “Teams of the World Cup” series continues with a look at Mexico, the second team to be drawn in Group A.

One of the CONCACAF region’s strongest sides, Mexico has a proud World Cup record and this summer will mark its fifth consecutive and fourteenth overall appearance at the finals. Having come through qualification with relative ease, finishing second to the USA by a solitary point, Javier Aguirre’s side will be hopeful of progressing from a group containing at least two teams Mexico would expect to beat in South Africa and Uruguay.

Under Aguirre Mexico has tended to play a flexible 4-4-2 formation, a robust defence providing a platform for a number of interchangeable attacking players – the likes of Giovanni dos Santos, Andres Guardardo and Carlos Vela being highly versatile forwards – to flourish. It is this strong defence upon which much of Mexico’s success has been built. Despite a slightly disappointing showing in the final phase of qualification when the team only managed to keep one clean sheet in ten games, it is from the defence where this team draws its experience. Rafael Marquez, Ricardo Osorio and Carlos Salcido have all had years of experience in some of Europe’s most prestigious leagues, whilst Jonny Magallon has been one of the most consistent defenders in Mexico for several seasons. If Mexico is to progress from Group A, then it is absolutely vital that this strong and worldly defensive quartet is at the peak of its powers.

Although Aguirre has a number of talented attack-minded footballers at his disposal, his problem since taking the Mexico job in April 2009 has been finding a reliable goal scorer to lead the line. Giovanni, Guardardo, Vela, Israel Castro and Guillermo Franco are all good forwards, but are (with the possible exception of Franco) more like traditional wingers than physical centre forwards.  To illustrate the point, none of them managed more than two goals during the final stage of qualification, all being out-scored by the ageing and somewhat overweight Cuauhtémoc Blanco. Indeed, Blanco’s selection shows just how desperate Aguirre is to unearth a Mexican centre-forward to benefit from the industrious creativity of the players he currently deploys in attacking positions. Javier Hernandez has recently shown signs of being the prolific scorer his country needs, although the Guadalajara striker has only just broken into the team and is still very much finding his feet in international football.

Mexico will undoubtedly be a difficult team to break down and has more than enough quality to progress from Group A, probably as runners-up to Raymond Domenech’s France. However, the lack of a regular flow of goals could really hurt El Tri, the defensive element of this side will not be enough to carry it beyond the last sixteen on its own.

Probable starting XI: Ochoa (America); Osorio (Stuttgart), Magallon (Guadalajara), Marquez (Barcelona), Salcido (PSV); Giovanni (Tottenham Hotspur), Torrado (Cruz Azul), Castro (Pumas), Guardardo (Deportivo La Coruna); Vela (Arsenal), Franco (West Ham United)/Hernandez (Guadalajara).

The Road to South Africa: 2nd place in CONCACAF qualification

World Ranking: 17th

Odds: 66/1