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Mexico

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Searching for faith in El Tri

Mexico fans hope head coach Miguel Herrera can direct El Tri toward a deep run at the World Cup.
Mexico fans hope head coach Miguel Herrera can direct El Tri toward a deep run at the World Cup.

RIO DE JANEIRO -- I understand well the needs of Mexican soccer fans. I see them walking by the boardwalk on Copacabana beach, waving their flag, raising their jubilation, their shouts and their laughter. They talk about plans, dreams, moments, stories, players and positions. They take things into account, sigh, think and then, they always dream. I understand well the type of emotional phase they're going through, but maybe for now, I'm not the right person to give them what they're searching for: Faith.

- Tovar: Time for El Tri to pay back fans' loyalty

I was eyeing the only page that has nothing to do with football in the Brazilian newspaper O Globo, when I found a headline that caught my attention: "Mexico is worse than Brazil in everything."

More than ever, I would have liked to read this statement in a strictly soccer tone, in keeping with the times and circumstances that we live in, but the former Brazilian President Luis Ignacio Lula Da Silva, perhaps the man with "more to blame" for this country to be organizing the World Cup, was talking about economy and politics and not about what happens or can happen around a soccer ball.

But let's go back to the field that ultimately concerns us and let's talk about Neymar Jr., Felipao - Luiz Felipe Scolari --, Miguel "El Piojo" Herrera and Javier "Chicharito" Hernandez, a much simpler task than Lula Da Silva's strong statements.

Herrera promised that on Monday the Mexican national team would wake up knowing who the starting goalkeeper will be for the first three games -- the only certain one, by the way -- in the World Cup. Finally, after long days filled with suspicions, analysis, conjecture and even unproven hypothesis, the Mexican coach has cleared up the "big question" so to speak -- about Mexico within hours of its World Cup debut.

It's incredible, but we've all fallen into "the game" that Herrera proposed to win time and to distract, when the Mexican team, no doubt, has deeper and more important concerns than the issue of the goalkeeper. With José de Jesús Corona or Guillermo Ochoa or even Alfredo Talavera himself, the condition of security is guaranteed in the Mexican goal.

The unknowns about this team are still in the midfield, in a sensitive area, where you have to have the intelligence, the rhythm, the ability and the responsibility to pull the strings, to generate football. Who will be left with this task? Héctor Herrera, showing at certain moments facets of great soccer and at other times hiding as if the commitment weighed on him. With Carlos "Gullit" Peña, who, physically and mentally, does not seem to be having his best moment or perhaps with Andrés Guardado, who at times shows part of the great technical skill and class that led him to European football a few years ago. Or maybe with Marco Fabián de la Mora, who has the characteristics but usually ends up being abused by his own personality.

It's true that the goal in a World Cup is a position of transcendence, that in the defense there are some questions on the adequacy of the three defenders to be used in Herrera's system, but what remains clear is that Mexico needs to play soccer in order to transcend against Cameroon, against Brazil and against Croatia and to have a certain ability in a group where the forecasts do not favor them. And that soccer will not come from Ochoa's saves, Talavera cutting down the angles or Corona's ability with the ball at his feet. It will have to come from the inspiration of players who have the talent to change a game.

Night falls early on Copacabana, with its lights on the beach, its dark alleys, its melancholy, its music which descends from a high decibel into a depressing one. And there they go, with their shirts in green tones or red nearing orange. A flag, a mask, makeup. I've seen the scene every four years. It's very similar. It starts the same. It ends worse.

@Faitelson_ESPN