“There is no country in the world that keeps so much pressure on a national team coach,” Juan Carlos Osorio, a Colombian, said of Mexico before he coached it at the 2018 World Cup.
Martino, 60, who is Argentine, has expressed a similar sentiment, and throughout this year he has pushed back at what he perceived as negative questions and challenged the narrative surrounding his team.
During a news conference the day before Mexico’s opening match against Poland on Tuesday, Martino was asked about the team’s lack of intensity. He took issue with the premise. Ochoa, 37, called coverage of the team “a show,” and said, “We don’t even talk about the sport anymore.”
Added Vela, 33: “The passion is so strong in Mexico that reality is lost a little. People only want to see you win and win by a lot of goals and to roll through teams. If not, people want to fire someone.”
In an effort to improve the team’s mental approach before the last World Cup, Mexico’s soccer federation and Osorio hired what they called a mental coach ahead of their trip to Russia. Asked if the move had helped, Vela said, “We didn’t advance, so you draw your conclusion from that.”
Hirving Lozano, a forward who plays his club soccer at Napoli in Italy, said Mexico’s failure to win a knockout stage game was constantly on his mind. Rather than hiding from that record, Ochoa said it was important to talk about the topic “without fear.”
After outplaying Poland but settling for a scoreless draw, Mexico will meet an old foe, Argentina, on Saturday. Herrera said his team was motivated to transcend its past, for the players and their country.
“We haven’t advanced and we want to go further,” Ochoa said, “and we’re going to try to.”