Is the weakness of CONCACAF creating a mirage of Mexico strength?
MEXICO CITY -- The Mexico national team's numbers and efficiency under Juan Carlos Osorio have been so good and seemingly healthy that they're actually frightening.
Mexico took all six points available to it over the course of this international break in what appeared to be a definitive step toward calm and comfortable qualification for the 2018 World Cup. El Tri has regained the confidence it lacked during Hexagonal qualifying for Brazil 2014, but it's still missing -- for some reason or another -- the footballing credibility that is required to achieve a style and competitive level that puts it on course with football's world powers.
Under Osorio, Mexico has experienced some moments of good football, but the danger lies in the fact that -- given the team's obvious deficiencies -- those results can hide or distract from the development that's required if El Tri is to reach a higher competitive level. The skills shown in the victories against Costa Rica and Trinidad and Tobago will not be enough in the fight for a result against Portugal or maybe Germany or Chile in the Confederations Cup this summer. Nor will they be good enough to achieve the old dream of Mexico fans: supporting a team that really transcends expectations at a World Cup.
It might seem as though Mexico is pleased to remain in its "comfort zone" -- comfortably leading CONCACAF qualifiers with efficient football against this level of opponents and results that generate a false sense of confidence and belief that El Tri's football is progressing. But, as is often the case in each World Cup cycle, these results "inflate the balloon" of a side that eventually goes on to deflate when faced with its first demanding test.
Osorio has not been brought on as Mexico manager solely to help the team qualify for the World Cup. I am convinced that the coach should help El Tri take the step necessary to reach the next level. Osorio has stated that he is "building" a team and it's clear he's doing so through rotations, positional changes and an inherent lack of style and personality. Only time will tell if he is really leading the squad to its longed-for horizon.
The national team's recent performances are frightening because, when it comes down to it, they may be just a mirage based on the poor level of El Tri's opponents, enhanced by the team's commercial needs. It's no use "walking" to the World Cup if, once there, Mexico ends up "crawling" at the decisive moment.
David Faitelson is based in Los Angeles and co-hosts "Nacion ESPN," ESPN Deportes' version of "SportsNation." Follow him on Twitter @Faitelson_ESPN.