Mexico's World Cup squad projections: Giovani, Marquez to make the cut?
The time of reckoning for Mexico's World Cup hopefuls is fast approaching, with coach Juan Carlos Osorio set to release El Tri's preliminary squad list on Monday. A 35-player list must be handed to FIFA by June 14, but Mexico appears set to only announce those players that will be joining up with El Tri in camp, which starts on Monday in the federation's plush training complex outside of Mexico City.
Mexico will name anything from 23 to 28 players, according to different reports in the media. If there are more than 23 names, it will be to give Osorio a base of replacements in case of injury, which would make sense given there are some lingering doubts over the fitness of center-backs Diego Reyes and Nestor Araujo.
The players will trickle into camp starting on Monday depending on when their seasons finish in their respective leagues. The majority of the squad will be in place to take on Wales on May 28 in Los Angeles, with the complete squad available for the Scotland farewell in Estadio Azteca on June 2. After that match against Scotland, players will be cut if necessary and the 23-player list confirmed, ahead or on FIFA's June 4 deadline. Then Mexico heads to Copenhagen for the final pre-World Cup friendly against Denmark on June 9.
Like every national team approaching the World Cup, Mexico has its issues but perhaps no other player in any squad has gone through as much in the past nine months as Rafa Marquez, who was sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury Department last August. Marquez's chances of being in the squad are high, according to various reports, but there has been no public statement from the federation as yet to confirm his availability. Whether he can travel to the United States for the friendly against Wales could be another issue.
If 39-year-old Marquez -- who has now retired from club soccer with Atlas -- is involved, he'll be one huge step closer to becoming the only player in the history of men's football to captain a side at five World Cups.
At the back, the goalkeepers appear set and it would be a major surprise if Guillermo Ochoa, Alfredo Talavera and Jesus Corona weren't the three on the list, with Rodolfo Copa the most likely addition should Osorio want an extra keeper as backup.
In defense, there are a few more question marks. There has been no official news on the injury to Porto's Reyes, but reports in the Mexican media suggest that his thigh concern could keep him out for anywhere between two and four weeks. Not having such a versatile player (Osorio sees Reyes as a center-back, right-back and holding midfielder) would be hugely problematic and the manager is almost certain to bring him into camp. Add to that the fact Nestor Araujo has yet to play following knee surgery and Mexico may add Oswaldo Alanis, Hugo Ayala and/or Edson Alvarez as cover.
Alanis gives Osorio a left-footed option at center-back in case of injury to Moreno while Alvarez, like Reyes, can play center-back, right-back or a holding midfield role. Which of Alanis, Ayala and Alvarez gets the nod could be one of Osorio's toughest choices.
In midfield, the biggest issue may surround Jesus Molina, one of the only out-and-out holding midfielders that fits Osorio's profile for the position. It's unlikely, however, that Molina will join the likes of Marquez, Hector Herrera, Andres Guardado, Jonathan dos Santos and Marco Fabian. U.S.-born Jonathan Gonzalez is set to miss out given the competition for places, while 22-year-old Omar Govea is probably also not quite over the line.
Up front, the big question revolves around Giovani dos Santos, who is expected to be in but may not be guaranteed. Dos Santos is back playing with LA Galaxy after an injury and has been a regular over the past couple of years, although Chivas' Rodolfo Pizarro ended the season well and Jurgen Damm has been a favorite of Osorio since he took over.
The decision-making process behind the scenes at the federation will be hectic, with Osorio set to invite his assistants to give their list and then make his final decision.
There's not long to go now, though, and whatever happens, the debate over who is in and which players are left out is set to be fierce.
Projected 23-player squad
Goalkeepers: Guillermo Ochoa (Standard Liege), Alfredo Talavera (Toluca), Jesus Corona (Cruz Azul)
Defenders: Diego Reyes (FC Porto), Carlos Salcedo (Eintracht Frankfurt), Hector Moreno (Real Sociedad), Oswaldo Alanis (Getafe), Nestor Araujo (Santos Laguna), Miguel Layun (Sevilla), Jesus Gallardo (Pumas)
Midfielders: Hector Herrera (Porto), Andres Guardado (Real Betis), Rafa Marquez (Atlas), Jonathan dos Santos (LA Galaxy), Marco Fabian (Eintracht Frankfurt), Javier Aquino (Tigres)
Forwards: Giovani dos Santos (LA Galaxy), Jesus "Tecatito" Corona (Porto), Raul Jimenez (Benfica), Oribe Peralta (Club America), Javier Hernandez (West Ham United), Carlos Vela (LAFC), Hirving Lozano (PSV Eindhoven)
Tom Marshall covers Liga MX and the Mexican national team for ESPN FC. Twitter: @MexicoWorldCup.