Mexico head coach Miguel Herrera provides instruction during a training session on March 4, 2014, at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta. (Photo: Mexsport
ATLANTA – Mexico squares off against African champion Nigeria in an international friendly on Wednesday at the Georgia Dome. The match is critical to the Tricolor for many reasons, but two stand out more than others.
First, it will be the last time that head coach Miguel Herrera will see his players perform on an official FIFA date before he must submit a provisional World Cup roster.
Second, Mexico will meet Cameroon in its Group A opener at Brazil 2014. By facing Nigeria, Herrera can gauge his team against a side that, in theory, has comparable playing characteristics to those of the Indomitable Lions.
"It will be very important,” said Herrera at a Tuesday press conference, responding to a question about the friendly’s significance. “Nigeria has a very competitive team. It will help us a lot to compare it with Cameroon because they have similar styles. We see the names of the Nigerian team and they are quite good."
One player that Herrera will not be able to observe under the enclosed stadium’s roof is 24-year-old attacker Giovani Dos Santos. The 2009 CONCACAF Gold Cup’s MVP suffered a calf injury during Villarreal’s 1-1 draw with Real Betis in a Spanish La Liga encounter on Sunday.
In his place, Herrera called up Club America’s Raul Jimenez, who shot to fame by scoring with a dramatic bicycle kick in a 2-1 World Cup Qualifying win over visiting Panama on October 11, 2013.
The Mexico manager expressed his disappointment, but realized that injuries are part of the game.
"Obviously, Giovani Dos Santos is an important player, but unfortunately that's football,” said the former Atlante star. “There are injuries that one would not expect to happen. The only thing we can convey is a sense of calm. We will wait to get more details on the depth of his injury and the recovery time in order to make a decision, but hopefully soon.”
Despite the absence of Dos Santos, Herrera was pleased with the physical condition of the seven players who traveled to Atlanta from Europe.
"The truth is that everyone arrived very well yesterday,” noted the 45-year-old. “As is customary, the first day is used to recover, to take some training in order to stretch their legs from their travels and their games. I saw all in good spirits, good attitude, good determination and hopefully tomorrow a good match for everybody.”
A performance like the 4-0 win Mexico posted against Korea Republic in January will be a very good sign and deepen the pool from which Herrera will select his World Cup squad.