July 3, 2018 / 11:09 AM / in 17 days

Elimination sends Mexico back to the drawing board

(Reuters) - Mexico have had six different coaches at the last seven World Cups ranging from the impassioned, ranting Mexican Miguel Herrera to irascible Argentine Ricardo La Volpe and the cerebral Colombian Juan Carlos Osorio, their current boss.

Soccer Football - World Cup - Round of 16 - Brazil vs Mexico - Samara Arena, Samara, Russia - July 2, 2018 Mexico's Carlos Vela looks dejected as Brazil's Thiago Silva, Marquinhos and team mates celebrate victory after the match REUTERS/David Gray

But the result is always the game.

For the seventh World Cup in a row, the soccer-mad country of more than 100 million people has seen its team knocked out in the second round, this time with Monday’s 2-0 defeat to Brazil.

As always, there were tantalizing moments, notably in the 1-0 win over Germany, when Mexico suggested they could finally succeed in their seemingly Sisyphean task of reaching the “fifth game.”

FILE PHOTO: Soccer Football - World Cup - Round of 16 - Brazil vs Mexico - Samara Arena, Samara, Russia - July 2, 2018 Mexico coach Juan Carlos Osorio looks on REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins/File Photo

But then came the familiar collapse, this time in their final group game against Sweden when they were outmuscled by less sophisticated opponents and lost 3-0, followed by the inevitable end.

Four of Mexico’s second-round eliminations have come against clearly superior teams: twice against Argentina (2006 and 2010), once against Germany (1998) and now Brazil.

But twice Mexico were the favorites, against Bulgaria in 1994 when they lost on penalties, and against the United States in 2002 when they collectively froze and lost 2-0.

The other was an even match against the Netherlands four years ago, when they led 1-0 until the last five minutes, only to capitulate and lose 2-1.

One of Mexico’s many problems is that the pressure on the coach is immense, especially for a foreigner, and Osorio — the ninth man to occupy the post in 10 years — has been in a running battle with the media during his three years in charge.

FILE PHOTO: Soccer Football - World Cup - Round of 16 - Brazil vs Mexico - Samara Arena, Samara, Russia - July 2, 2018 Mexico coach Juan Carlos Osorio during the match REUTERS/Pilar Olivares/File Photo

Another finger could be pointed at the Mexican league, the strongest in Latin America, which paradoxically is detrimental to the national side.

This is partly because the number of foreign players makes it more difficult for Mexicans to break into the teams and also because, when Mexican players are successful, they often prefer to stay at home rather than move to more competitive leagues abroad.

Mexico’s squad in Russia had eight home-based players, another three in Major League Soccer and only six based in the top five European leagues.

Indeed, Osorio pointed to Mexico’s lack of players at top European clubs as a key factor in their defeat to Brazil.

“The fact that we could play on equal terms against a team like Brazil speaks very well of our attitude, but we lacked efficiency and that extra quality they have in the last third of the field,” said Osorio, noting that all Brazil’s players are based with top clubs.

“You have to remember where Gabriel Jesus plays (Manchester City), where Willian and Philippe Coutinho play (Chelsea and Barcelona, respectively).

“Mexican football needs to export more players and they need to compete each weekend with the best, they need to train each week with the best, and then the team will take that jump in quality.”

Writing by Brian Homewood; Editing by Hugh Lawson

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