After the tragic loss that puts Mexico’s World Cup hopes in jeopardy, the Mexican Football Federation (FMF in Spanish) decided to relieve Jose Manuel “Chepo” de la Torre as national team coach on Saturday. The FMF also announced that Luis Fernando Tena would take over the helm of the project whose objective is to reach Brazil 2014.
“I have confidence in Luis Fernando Tena, who has demonstrated in other situations that you are all aware of (Copa America, Pan-American games, Olympics), working with his staff has always gotten good results,” Justino Compean, FMF president said. “He is aware of the challenge he faces and has accepted it.”
The federation decided to cut ties with de la Torre after Friday night’s 2-1 loss to Honduras in CONCACAF World Cup Qualification at the Azteca stadium. The Azteca is considered Mexico’s “holy ground” of football. Prior to Friday’s loss, El Tri had only lost one official game at the mythical stadium back in June 2001. The loss came to Costa Rica and cost Enrique Meza his job as coach.
Mexico passed through the group stage of the qualifier undefeated winning all six games, including a pair against Costa Rica. However, the tempo changed at the beginning of the final hexagonal. A scoreless draw against Jamaica at the Azteca made people think. Five draws and a single victory and the chants against “Chepo” began to take a familiar place at the venues.
El Tri had qualified for the FIFA Confederations Cup in Brazil after their victory over the U.S.A. at the 2011 Gold Cup. They drew host Brazil, UEFA runner-up Italy and Asian Champion Japan. The close to 20 year positive streak against Italy came to an end in the first game. Brazil, a team that has been controlled and dominated by Mexico in the last 10 years, also defeated de la Torre’s squad. After being eliminated from the competition, they faced and defeated Japan. After a disastrous return from Brazil the fans began calling for de la Torre’s ouster.
After the bad results from the Confederations Cup and a semifinal elimination to Panama in the Gold Cup, the FMF came together to discuss “Chepo’s” fate. With four games left in the elimination the FMF decided to give de la Torre another chance.
The loss puts Mexico up against the wall with three games left, only one home game against Panama, the team that has become a nightmare for Mexico in the last three months. The reality is that Mexico may not qualify directly to the World Cup. CONCACAF receives three direct berths with the fourth team getting the chance in requalification against the Oceania representative.
Tena has a daunting task ahead of him. He must qualify the team to the maximum event in world soccer, and prepare a team that is hurt, struggling and disorganized. He needs to rebuild the bridge between AC Ajaccio goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa and Real Sociedad striker Carlos Vela. The first hill he must get over is in Columbus, Ohio against the USMNT at Crew Stadium on Tuesday.