Mexico has four center-forwards in training for its World Cup warmup matches this week but will take only three strikers to Qatar and Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez will not be in either group, coach Gerardo “Tata” Martino confirmed Tuesday night.
Martino ruled out Chicharito from an appearance in his fourth World Cup while speaking on the concourse at the stadium the player calls home with the LA Galaxy.
While the 34-year-old is having a largely outstanding season with his MLS club, Martino is focused on the other four candidates to lead the line when Mexico attempts to break out of a difficult World Cup group.
Despite rumors he might choose all four center-forwards or recall Chicharito to bolster a team that endured a stretch of poor offense during CONCACAF qualifiers, Martino said he will take only three of the candidates to Qatar.
“In the case of Chicharito, we are simply going with other forwards,” Martino said. “We will try to choose the 26 players who are closest to our game.”
Those forwards are Raul Jimenez, Rogelio Funes Mori, Henry Martin and Santiago Gimenez, but not everyone is ready to play. Jimenez is working through a groin injury that has kept him out of Wolverhampton Wanderers lineup recently in England, while Funes Mori has been out recently with a muscular injury after a strong start to his season with Liga MX’s Monterrey.
Martino doesn’t expect Jimenez or Funes Mori to play against Peru on Saturday at the Rose Bowl or against Colombia in California’s Bay Area on Monday, but they are with El Tri for training, recovery and connection with their teammates.
“We have two [forwards] who can play and two who can’t,” Martino said. “What I like is that we don’t have not enough players. Four forwards are not going to go [to Qatar], but as long as they make it difficult for me to choose, I’m very happy about that. Surely there will be talk of who is left out, but the problem will be abundance and not scarcity.”
Martino admitted that he is concerned about the fitness of first-choice striker Jimenez, who has started just two Premier League games so far this season, but remains hopeful his place at the World Cup is not in serious doubt.
“I would like to think not, there is plenty of time for him to recover,” Martino said.
“[But] I never thought we would be in this situation. I thought that it wasn’t so serious, it isn’t very serious, but I do have to give it a lot of thought.”
The situation is far more precarious for fellow key man, Jesus “Tecatito” Corona. The Sevilla winger fractured his fibula in a training session last month, seemingly ruling him out of the World Cup. Martino, though, suggested that the 29-year-old still has a chance of making the trip to the Qatar.
“The aspiration that we have, in the first days of October, is that he can work with our medical staff,” Martino added. “[Hopefully] he has some chances to fight for a place.”
Mexico finished second in the CONCACAF qualifiers behind Canada, but Martino’s team scored just four goals in its final five qualifying matches despite having both Jimenez and Corona available.
Those offensive struggles and the new injury problems seem dangerous for Mexico’s hopes of escaping a group that also includes Saudi Arabia, Lionel Messi-led Argentina, and a Poland squad with Barcelona star Robert Lewandowski.
Even the players have noticed that Mexican fans are downbeat about the team’s chances, but that’s hardly unusual for a national team that has known its share of heartbreak. Veteran center-back Hector Moreno hopes El Tri’s supporters will find some optimism — and he hopes the team can provide it with two strong performances in California this week.
“On paper, it’s a tough group,” Moreno said. “Argentina is one of the candidates to win the whole tournament. But you still have to play those games. In the last World Cup, you never would have thought we would beat Germany, and then lose to Sweden, either. We have to focus on Poland, and then after that, we have to focus on Argentina and [Lionel] Messi, the best on the planet. We are always going to have big challenges at this level, and those are two big challenges, but I think we will be ready.”