The Mexican national team is in a complex place heading into the 2022 World Cup in Qatar. While they qualified as the second best team in Concacaf, during qualification there were difficult moments, including chants to fire head coach Tata Martino due as the team struggled with a lack of scoring as well as disappointing results against the United States and Canada. When El Tri are used to dominating the continent, it can be tough to come to terms with other teams improving, especially when it is now costing them trophies that they would be expected to win. Last year they lost to the United States men's national team in the finals of both the Concacaf Nations League and the Gold Cup.
Those expectations are something that Mexican international Héctor Moreno spoke about on CBS Sports Podcast In Soccer we Trust as he looks to head to his fourth World Cup. When asked about how he deals with the pressure after a loss from and media Moreno started by simply stating that it's important to unplug from social media as people don't say the things that they would on social media when he's out with his family.
"The Mexican media is always trying to put pressure but it's part of the fact that comes with being able to play with the national team," Moreno said. "It's been a long time, I've been there but sometimes it's hard because they go beyond football and [into] our lives. They start talking about personal life and this kind of thing that I don't like. I understand that you can criticize if I play good," he continued. "But when people talk about family things or some other things not related to football, I don't understand it. It's part of the football business but it's not cool. It's not cool to get into that situation because at the end of the day, everybody wants to win and you have an opponent in front of you that is the same."
Listen below and follow In Soccer We Trust: A CBS Sports Soccer Podcast where three times a week your three favorite former USMNT players cover everything you could possibly want to know about the beautiful game in the United States.
The pressure to succeed is immense, and that's especially true when there is additional drama like Javier "Chicharito" Hernandez being left out of the team despite El Tri's scoring issues. Chicharito hasn't been capped since 2019 despite the fact that Mexico only scored 17 goals in 14 World Cup qualifying matches as striker Raul Jimenez tried to regain form following a scary skull fracture that ended his 2020/21 season with Wolverhampton.
At the time Chicharito was dropped he was struggled for playing time with Sevilla but things have been different since he came to Major League Soccer. After only scoring two goals in 12 games during a Covid shortened 2020 season, Chicharito broke out in 2021 scoring 17 goals and assisting three more. He has kept that form this season with five goals in nine games and also hasn't closed the door on a return to the national team. Listening to Moreno, it doesn't seem like the players have closed the door on Chicharito either if Martino is willing to call him in.
"I believe that Mexico doesn't have the luxury to leave this kind of player out, who can give you something. I don't know if as a starter or not a starter, it's not my job but I just want him to be able to compete with us, to be part of the last 26 players who will be in the World Cup.", Said Moreno, "I believe everybody who is Mexican is hoping to play for us in the final list so I hope that he gets this opportunity and when I spoke with him last, he's open to do that, he wants to do that."
Moreno's right. El Tri doesn't have the luxury of leaving Chicharito home when their leading scorer in qualifying was Jimenez with only three goals. No other Mexican forward scored more than two goals and you know what you're going to get from someone who has seen and done it all like Chicharito. The lack of scoring has already hurt Mexico in big spots as the team creates good chances but the forwards haven't finished them which is why their expected goals scored during qualifying was 22.45 over five more than their actual goals scored.
But Chicharito isn't the only player who Moreo would like to see in the World Cup squad. Marcelo Flores is also catching his eye. While Moreno hasn't trained with he 18-year-old midfielder in Arsenal's youth system much himself, he says he's heard good things and hopes that he is able to make good on his potential. The attacking midfielder is also eligible for Canada but has been involved with Mexico at youth levels and has been climbing the ranks for the Mexico youth sides before his debut against Chile in 2021. He'll likely get more minutes during nations league play and with strong enough performances, Flores could make the trip to Qatar as well.
Hopefully, things can come together for Mexico to have a good showing in the World Cup but it won't be easy as they'll face Argentina, Poland, and Saudi Arabia in Group C. There's a lot for Moreno and the Mexican defense to feel good about heading to Qatar but it will be up to Martino to ensure that he gets the best out of his attack as if they struggle and Chicharito is left home, it could be a monumental moment in his tenure.
Be sure to check out the full interview from Moreno where he goes into a deep dive on the state of Mexican soccer as well as the Concacaf Champions League final.