Mexico's Andres Guardado (pictured) celebrates after scoring against visiting Canada in a World Cup qualifier on March 29, 2016, in Mexico. (Photo: Mexsport)
MEXICO CITY – Four games played, four wins.
That was Mexico’s formula for clinching the top spot in Group A – with two games left to contest – in the fourth round of CONCACAF qualifying for the 2018 FIFA World Cup. Over the impressive stretch, the Tricolor struck for 10 goals, while conceding none.
With early advancement sealed, Mexico can fully focus on June’s Copa America Centenario. It has reached the final of the South American championship twice in nine all-time appearances. Now, on the heels of a comfortable WCQ campaign, lifting the trophy on June 26 is the priority.
“We feel great,” said midfielder Andres Guardado, who converted from the penalty spot in a 2-0 victory over visiting Canada on Tuesday. “It calms us down for what’s coming…the Copa America tournament this summer.
“The fact that we won’t have to think about the qualifiers in September, since we’re mathematically through to the next round, gives us great relief knowing we can focus on the Copa America.”
Since being handed Mexico’s head coaching reins in October, Juan Carlos Osorio has compiled a 5-0-0 record. One of his priorities has been to introduce younger players to the national team set-up.
Toward that end, midfielder Jesus Corona (23) has scored in three straight qualifiers, while Pachuca standout Hirving Lozano (20) netted in a 3-0 win at Canada on March 25.
"We believe that the boys have understood very well what we consider to be game concepts and believe it is a matter of time for improvement,” said Osorio. “We are aware that we must improve in many aspects.
“We’re very happy that we are having a healthy qualifying round so far. We are trying to improve our chances to achieve major goals.”
One of those major goals is contending for the Copa America crown. The 54-year-old Colombian is looking forward to putting together a squad that can make a meaningful run.
“Our primary responsibility is to follow closely the performance of all our players because it will be difficult to leave many out,” he finished. “We’ll continue to work as we normally do and will try to be fair with everyone.”