By Dan Price
Mexico are preparing to face Honduras tonight in their final warm up game before their CONCACAF Gold Cup campaign begins with a game against Cuba next Thursday.
The game is widely considered to be a must-win for under pressure boss Miguel Herrera. After a fantastic World Cup last summer, his men are now winless in their last six outings, losing to Brazil and Ecuador and drawing with Peru, Boliva, Chile, and Costa Rica. Their recent form has been a disappointing footnote to a run which saw them win seven of their ten matches between the end of last summer’s competition and a 3-0 win over Guatemala on 30th May this year.
On paper Honduras shouldn’t pose too much of a threat. In last summer’s World Cup they lost all three group matches against France, Ecuador, and Switzerland, and since then they have only won four from fifteen. Two of those wins came against Belize and Nicaragua in the Copa Centroamericana, with the other two coming in games against French Guyana and El Salvador. None of them are exactly high-quality opposition.
In fact, they have only won four from their last 21 in all competitions, and only five from their last 25.
Nonetheless, Mexico were badly scarred by tonight’s opponents back in September 2013, when Honduras pulled back from a goal down to record a famous 2-1 win over El Tri in the historic Azteca stadium. That result put Mexico on the brink of failure to qualify for the World Cup and led to the sacking of then-manager Jose ‘Chepo’ de la Torre.
After a bout of managerial musical chairs, Miguel Herrera was eventually instilled as Chepo’s long-term replacement – and that’s what gives tonight’s friendly some extra spice. With Mexico’s disastrous Copa America showing, Herrera is now feeling the heat more than at any point in his tenure to date.
The media in Honduras have wasted no time in painting their side as the Mexico manager-killers, and while it may be a little far-fetched to think that a loss tonight would leave Herrera walking through the exit door, there can be no denying that a defeat would inflict another hammer blow to his reign. Despite that, failure to win tonight combined with failure to reach at least the final of the Gold Cup could really put Herrera on the rocks.
A win is vital to quell the nerves and put the side in a sound state of mind ahead of a crucial month.
Kick-off in Houston, Texas, is at 9:30pm EDT. The game will be broadcast live on Univision Deportes, UniMas, and ESPN in the United States.