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Where did it go wrong, Javier Aguirre?

“In hindsight, maybe you would have done things differently”.

Random quote by A. nonpunta.

Many coaches from this year’s World Cup have already paid the ultimate penalty for their countries failure.

Domenech was the first, and not before time. Lippi jumped before he was pushed. Dunga was sacked. Le Guen quit after failure and Erikkson collected another loser’s bonus before dissapearing again.

Javier Aguirre added his name to this list on Wednesday. Despite making hints to the contrary the Mexico coach decided to leave his post and provide his successor with the full amount of time for preparation for Brazil 2012. His decision seemed honourable, but in truth he would have been probably been sacrificed at the altar of public opinion within the next two weeks.

Former coach Javier Aguirre

Mexico exited South Africa 2010 at the hands of Argentina.  Aguirre hoped to reach the quarter finals and match his countries best showing in 1970 and 1986. But alike the last four World Cup’s the Mexico were destined to fall at the last 16 hurdle (Mexico were finally rated 14th in the tournament).

However, although misfortune could have been blamed for previous early tournament exits this time the team (or the coach) can largely be held responsible.

Mexico’s preparation was ideal. The home based players were pulled from league duty 6 weeks before the domestic season end and the squad  participated in 15 friendlies since the beginning of the year. Impressive displays against England, Holland and Italy meant that the players and public were in a confident mood. And their involvement in the World Cup could not have been more immediate after being drawn to face the hosts in the inaugural match.

They started well. Dominating the first half against South Africa but lacking the final touch in attack. In the end they had to scrape to a 1-1 draw when a victory was expected. Next were the French and a historic 2-0 victory. The victory was lauded in Mexico and rightly so, but the French were abject and maybe this masked the Mexicans limitations. A final group game against Uruguay was lost 1-0 but qualification was assured through goal difference. If Mexico had applied a little more effort they would have avoided Argentina.

In the end Mexico’s Copa Mundial was a disappointing one. Despite all the promise and the flashes of  skill and magic they failed to meet their true potential.

For many the blame lies largely at the feet of Aguirre and his apparent fondness for experience over youth. Veteran hit men Guillermo Franco and Cuauhtémoc Blanco were favoured by Aguirre and the result was a solitary goal (Blanco penalty versus France) between them in a combined 366 minutes of play.

What was even more baffling was Aguirre’s continued reliance on the aged strike force when their replacements: Pablo Barrera and Javier Hernandez had such an immediate effect when called upon. When he finally recognized the merits of  “Chicharito” started against Argentina but instead of partnering him with Carlos Vela or Barrera he again stunned everyone. He started Adolfo “Bofo” Bautista as the attacking spearhead. From Tijuana to Tuxtla the collective question was “Bofo?” and he was duly hauled off at half time with hardly a touch of the ball.

Franco misses again

His decision to include Oscar “Conejo” Perez as No.1 at the expense of the younger, Memo Ochoa was largely vindicated. Perez was solid if not totally, convincing with his tendency to punch rather than catch the ball frequently worrying the defence. The defenders were also generally unconvincing. At times they looked tired and disorganized. Set plays and high balls had them struggling for cover in all of the games. In the end they were lucky to only concede 5 goals.

In midfield Giovanni Dos Santos performed admirably as always and was rewarded by making the young player of the year shortlist. Andres Guardado was used sparingly and not really given a chance. Israel Castro and Gerardo Torrado were solid if not impressive and Rapheal Marquez excited in short periods as a make shift midfielder. However Aguirre opted to select only 5 recognised midfielders in his 23 man squad, so he limited his options.

But it was in attack that Mexico really disappointed. In a total of 50 shots in 4 games they only managed to convert 4 to goals. A poor standard by any team but it’s even more disappointing when you reflect on his available strikeforce.

Chicharito scores against Argentina.

He had one of the brightest, World stars at his disposal in Hernandez but he was criminally underused. Barrera was employed as a late sub and Jonathon Dos Santos did not even board the plane to South Africa.

In the end he probably realised his mistake citing;

“The future is in the hands of our young players.”, as he announced his retirement.

If he had noticed this in May he could be planning for next year’s Copa America.

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