Giovani dos Santos (pictured), shown in a 2015 CONCACAF Gold Cup match against Cuba, last played in a World Cup qualifier at Costa Rica on October 15, 2013. (Photo: Victor Straffon/Straffon Images)
COLUMBUS, Ohio – With its first two matches in the final round of CONCACAF qualifying for the 2018 FIFA World Cup scheduled to be on the road, Mexico is looking to avoid the pitfalls that led it to an uneven Hexagonal campaign four years ago.
On the way to Brazil 2014, the Tricolor opened the same stage with three consecutive draws, ultimately finishing in fourth place and having to overcome New Zealand in a playoff to seal a place in the finals.
Mexico will open against the United States on Friday at MAPFRE Stadium, where it has lost four straight qualifiers to the host by an identical 2-0 score. An encounter at Panama awaits four days later.
Attacker Giovani dos Santos, whose last action in a World Cup qualifier was more than three years ago, acknowledged that it’s a difficult way to kick off play.
“They are two very hard matches with us playing away,” said dos Santos. “In the first one, we know the difficulty that the match is going to have against a tough opponent, with a years-old rivalry, on a field in which Mexico has never gotten a win. So we are prepared for them and hopefully Mexico can change history on November 11.”
Dos Santos struck for a team-best 14 goals in 28 regular-season games for the LA Galaxy in 2016. His performances, which also yielded 12 assists, helped to pave the way for a Mexico recall.
“I am very happy, excited for being called again to the national team and very eager to face these two matches,” the 27-year-old expressed. “Physically, I feel very good. I believe that I have worked very hard this year.
“As I have said, it has been one of the best seasons that I have had in my career. The truth is that I am very happy and thankful for the trust of the manager (Juan Carlos Osorio). We have two very important matches to start the Hexagonal and I feel ready for them.”
Dos Santos has played in 22 World Cup qualifiers, netting two goals.