Sports

Herrera is bringing back the confidence

MEXICO

It took four coaches, 47 players, a near 22,000-kilometre round trip and a flavour from the USA, but Mexico eventually made it to their 15th Finals.

Confidence was high going into the 10-game Concacaf qualifying campaign, having clinched gold at the London 2012 Olympics, but their form at the traditional fortress of Estadio Azteca deserted Mexico as they played out three goalless draws and suffered a shock loss to Honduras.

That defeat, just their second in 78 matches at their 104,000-seater home, saw Jose Manuel Chepo de la Torre axed and his assistant Jose Luis Tena’s reign lasted just one match.

Victor Manuel Vucetich, known as King Midas, showed anything but a golden touch during his two-game spell which ended with his sacking after defeat by Costa Rica. That left El Tri grateful to the USA, whose incredible late victory over Panama saw Mexico sneak into the play-offs where they met New Zealand.

In stepped Miguel Herrera to steady the ship and he controversially stuck with what he knew, leaving out the overseas stars in favour of home-based players.

That gamble paid off with Santos Laguna striker Oribe Peralta (above) netting twice in Mexico City and then grabbing a hat-trick in Wellington to seal a 9-3 aggregate victory.

Mexico’s chances of making waves could well depend on the form of their play-off hero, who scored twice against group favourites Brazil as they stunned the Samba Boys in the 2012 Olympic final.