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May 28, 2014

Herrera: Goalkeeper pick is tough

Mexico striker Chicharito Hernandez praised Mexican legend Cuauhtemoc Blanco ahead of their friendly with Israel.

Mexico coach Miguel Herrera again insisted that his toughest roster decision continues to be at goalkeeper, one day after revealing that he'll start Jesus Corona in the goal for Wednesday's sendoff friendly vs. Israel at Estadio Azteca.

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Before he announced his 23-man World Cup squad, Herrera had four choices at goalkeeper and opted to leave out Moises Munoz in favor of Alfredo Talavera while including Cruz Azul goalkeeper Jesus Corona and Ajaccio's Guillermo Ochoa.

"The only place on the field where I have doubts is in the goal," he said Tuesday. "I had that doubt before we started training camp as well. I will have to make a decision and one will start but it is going to be difficult and I am trying to be fair. But the goal will be well guarded, I know that."

Despite the fact that his European-based players only re-joined training camp this past Sunday, Herrera said he was not worried.

"I have only had a little time to work with the group but I can already see how it is going to go," he said. "In truth I am seeing that it is going to be very competitive to earn a starter's role."

Mexico will start vs. Israel with José de Jesús Corona, Carlos Salcido, Maza Rodriguez, Diego Reyes, Miguel Layún, Paul Aguilar, Héctor Herrera, Conejo Brizuela, Marco Fabián, Cuauhtémoc Blanco and Oribe Peralta.

Manchester United striker Javier "Chicharito" Hernandez will be among those beginning the match on the bench, but likely only as a formality while Blanco plays a short period in front of the fans as a special tribute in Azteca to the 41-year-old veteran, who played for Mexico in three World Cups.

"He is one of those special idols who deserves tribute," Herrera said. "We won't be losing the game's essence, but we will be stressing the importance that a player of his level of excellence can have. When we sub him out we will probably go with Raul (Jimenez) or Chicharo (Javier Hernandez)."

Ajaccio goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa said he would like to give the fans a send-off victory.

"People are expecting a lot from us," Ochoa said. "We know we have to go to the World Cup and make them happy. I hope this match will propel us for what is ahead."

Herrera is expected to use each of his goalkeepers in one friendly game, starting with Corona on Wednesday, before selecting his No. 1 for the final preparation match against Portugal on June 6.

Luis Montes, Jose Juan Vazquez, Rafa Marquez, Hector Moreno, Carlos Pena and Giovani Dos Santos all arrived at camp on Sunday.

Regarding Wednesday's test, Israel coach Eli Guttman said his players are aware of what it means to play El Tri in Mexico City's storied stadium.

"Great players have played here and we know that it is an honor," Guttman said. "Mexico has a great offensive game, playing the 5-3-2, that is how the set up on the field and we have to be on top of our game."

Mexican president Enrique Pena Nieto addressed the team inside Mexico City's Palacio Nacional in the traditional flag-bearing ceremony.

"Brazil had the privilege of winning Mexico '70 and now it's Mexico's turn to win Brazil 2014," Pena Nieto told Herrera, captain Rafa Marquez and the other 22 players.

Mexico will also play friendlies vs. Ecuador on May 31 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas; vs. Bosnia-Herzegovina June 3 at Chicago's Soldier Field and vs. Portugal on June 6 at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass.

Mexico are in Group A and will open World Cup play against Cameroon on June 13 before taking on hosts Brazil on June 17 and Croatia on June 23.

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