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Jun 19, 2014

The surprises and letdowns of Mexico

There is no doubt that Mexico has exceeded expectations at this stage in the World Cup. Four points in the first two games is always impressive, but even more so if one were to consider what the national team has gone through recently.

Drama with Carlos Vela, multiple coaching changes, and a dissatisfied fan base all seemed to come together at the most inopportune time last year. Intertwined with Mexico's losses, it became a perfect storm that was redirecting El Tri's plans for the World Cup.

Yet, here Mexico remains. Emerging from the storm with plenty to be proud of but also with unexpected performances from certain members of their team. Some players have held strong for Mexico through the first two matches while others have become nonexistent.

Let's discuss those who have either surprised fans' expectations or completely let them down.

The disappointments

Miguel Layun

From Miguel Herrera's new arsenal of players, Miguel Layun looked like one of the most threatening. The wingback is devastatingly quick and doesn't seem to ever tire from his runs. Rumor has it that multiple European teams are interested in his services and a great World Cup would have been a perfect way to introduce himself to a global audience.

The quick and agile Layun that I described has yet to appear for Mexico in the World Cup. The wingback has started in both games for El Tri but failed to make an impact in either game. Layun has had the same story in both of his opportunities: dangerous during the initial moments of the match and then gradually fading into the background.

It can be argued that Layun had a great cross for Javier Hernandez against Cameroon late into the game, but even considering that as his highlight so far is shocking for a player of his quality.

Hector Moreno

When it comes to do doing well for club and country, Hector Moreno always comes to mind. Moreno has been fantastic with Espanyol and seems to have already outgrown the mid-table La Liga side, which many players in Mexico wish they could say. The 26-year-old is Mexico's best defender but really needs to begin playing like it.

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Perhaps it is the line the back three keep or a slow transition to the national team, but Moreno looks a bit awkward in defense. It's hard to explain because he hasn't exactly been terrible, but he doesn't look nearly as confident or comfortable as he has in the past. Given the potential for Rafael Marquez and Francisco Rodriguez to implode, it is imperative that Moreno steps up his game.

The surprises

Jose Juan Vazquez

At 5-foot-5, Jose Juan Vazquez has shown up as an unlikely hero for the Mexican national team. Vazquez began his soccer career in the Mexican fourth division but has somehow worked his way up to a starting spot in the national team. It's astonishing for me to even assume that a 26-year-old player who made his debut in second-division Mexican soccer in 2011 (that's right, his second-division debut was three years ago) is now one of Mexico's most solid players in the starting XI.

Vazquez's story reads like a futbol fairy tale. It may be too late for him to make an impact on the European scene, but you never know if his form continues during the rest of the tournament.

Andres Guardado

Who is this player? I'm convinced that something along the lines of "Freaky Friday" happened between Andres Guardado and Hector Herrera recently.

Guardado has looked dangerous with the ball, creative with his passes, and seems to be itching to score a long-range shot on net. A month ago, it was a bit of a shock to learn that Guardado had sneaked onto the team after the terrible performances that he had for Valencia and Bayer Leverkusen. Yet, two matches into the World Cup and Guardado looks like one of Mexico's best players.

Maybe this was the exact motivation that the veteran needed at this point in his career. Guardado, with 106 caps at 27 years old, still has time to make a resurgence and is making the right steps toward doing so.

Cesar Hernandez

Cesar Hernandez can't remember a time when soccer hasn't been a part of his daily routine. Within that personal immersion of fĂștbol is a lifelong passion for the Mexican national team. He has blogged on El Tri for four years mainly through his blog The Big Verde. Follow him on Twitter @cesarh1030.