RECIFE, Brazil -- Three different styles. Three different dramas. Three opponents with different journeys. And now Holland.
The numbers of this Mexico side are so strong as to be irrefutable: one goal conceded, unbeaten, seven points from a possible nine and only finishing second in the group due to goal difference.
There's a generous ingredient: They have finished the games without being physically exhausted, without diminishing their performance, which has allowed them to play with pace, power, stamina and consistency against their three opponents.
However, Miguel "El Piojo" Herrera and Rafael Marquez are right: They've progressed in the World Cup but still haven't achieved their goals.
Riding the whirlwind of euphoria, both Marquez and Herrera spoke of going above and beyond. The defender, with four World Cups under his belt as captain, spoke of one game at a time, of making history. "El Piojo," for his part, in a promise to aspire to anything, said that the only thing he is thinking about is seeing Marquez lifting the World Cup.
Clearly, Marquez's experience gives him an added sense of coherence and a frank and sensible assessment of the size of the challenge ahead. He has played in four World Cups, in three of which he has seen how before the supreme challenge, a fifth game, your chances can be killed off in dramatic fashion. In this sense, in his role as a Mexican international, the Mexican captain has been through disappointment and despair, in spite of the fact that in his European career he won everything there was to win. That is to say, he is wiser and more aware thanks to the scars of the road already traveled that once again lays ahead.
Herrera, on the other hand, finds himself in uncharted waters. For Herrera, each game is an adventure, a step into unknown dimensions.
Without a doubt, through the involvement of Marquez, and the openness of the coaching team to their captain's journey, they may share and find the balance between the excess of "El Piojo," and the steps that Marquez has learned are needed in each World Cup.
The center-back made two statements in Tuesday's news conference that praised Herrera and alluded to this collaboration. Because "El Piojo" ensures us that when he spoke to Márquez, to recall him for the "Odyssey" to New Zealand in qualification, he specifically told him that he needed him as his ambassador on the pitch, so that, knowing the roles of each player, he could marshal them according to how the conditions of the game were changing.
Miguel Herrera previously said: "Rafa Marquez should, in due course, be the Mexican national coach."
In the news conference, where he was acknowledged as man of the match between Mexico and Croatia, Marquez pointed out:
1. This is the best national team process he's been involved in.
2. This is the best coach he's worked with in terms of documenting and stipulating what is needed from the squad on the pitch and on an individual basis. "In this way, it's much easier to position my teammates."
Perhaps this will prove to be a fruitful combination between "El Piojo" and "El Patron," as Marquez is known within the Mexican squad.
And perhaps this active, current and ongoing role that Herrera has given to his captain will ensure that his players don't suddenly lose their way and switch off on the pitch.
And perhaps it will act as the catalyst for one who dreams of the stars, seemingly and totally unreachable, and finds Diogenes with his magic lantern in that wounded skin full of World Cup sorrows for Rafa Marquez.
And perhaps, through a blend of these circumstances, they will find a compromise, a safe port, feasible ground upon which they might both feel satisfied. And, it goes without saying, their long-suffering, devoted fans as well.
Rafa Ramos is a ESPNDeportes.com staff writer, based in Los Angeles. He is regularly featured on ESPN Deportes Radio's popular Raza Deportiva, and frequently appears on various TV shows. Before ESPN, Rafa was a journalist for L.A.'s La Opinión newspaper, where he covered El Tri through a number of World Cup appearances. He has over 100,000 followers on Twitter @rafaramosESPN