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Javier Hernandez and Mexico Have Cause for Optimism Ahead of Copa America

Published by Bleacher Report on Thu, 26 May 2016

Who do you think will win the Copa America Centenario'Argentinabeaten in the 2015 finaland Brazil will always pop up as the main options in your mind, even though they've only lifted the trophy just once between them in the last three editions.Uruguaywinners in 2011and holders Chile surely deserve serious consideration, too, particularly when you take into account the star quality they possess in attack.But what if the 100th anniversary of the tournament saw a new champion crowned'Step forward Mexico. Twice the bridesmaid but never the bride, there are genuine reasons for Juan Carlos Osorio's squad to be optimistic ahead of their 10th appearance in the event.Ahead of Saturday's friendly with Paraguay, Bleacher Report examines some of Mexico's major plus points ahead of the 2016 Copa in June.The Case For the DefenceEl Tri were a major disappointment in the 2015 Copa. Minus some of their star names, they failed to even get out of Group A.After contrasting draws against Bolivia and Chilethe first game saw barely a threat of a goal, while they shared six with the eventual championsthey tumbled out with a 2-1 loss at the hands of Ecuador.Since that early exit (they finished bottom of the table), Mexico have compiled a 17-game unbeaten run.Former manager Miguel Herrera, who was sacked after winning the CONCACAF Gold Cup in July 2015,started the run before his exit. Interim boss Ricardo Ferretti kept the streak alive before Osorio took charge in October.The Colombian has made a perfect start in the job. In five games, Mexico have scored 12 goals and conceded none.Solid foundations in defence are the base for success at international level.Yet the five successive clean sheets do come with some small print. While shutout wins are impressive, you have to take into consideration the standard of the opposition.Osorio has so far faced El Salvador, Honduras, Senegal and Canada (twice). Hardly a murderers' row of national teams.The coach now has to make some tough decisions over team selection, starting with who plays in goal.Guillermo Ochoa has not played for his country since their successful Gold Cup campaign, yet he finds himself part of the Copa squad.Jose de Jesus Corona and Alfredo Talavera are the other options, but two out of the three are going to be disappointed.Tom Marshall of ESPN FC said Osorio faces a tricky decision over the identity of his No. 1:"This time around, it seems as if Talavera has moved ahead of Corona in the pecking order, but it is anyone's guess as to how Ochoa fits in. After waiting over 18 months at Malaga just to get a debut in La Liga, Ochoa started the final 10 games of the season and was generally impressive."Whoever starts, Mexico's defensive solidity will be tested in the upcoming friendlies. After Paraguay at the weekend, they then go up against Chile on Thursday.Those two fixtures will be the perfect test for those supposedly solid foundations at the back. It is time to find out if Mexico's Copa bid is built on cement or sand.Leadership QualitiesThe early signs have been promising under Osorio, a well-travelled coach who once worked for English Premier League side Manchester City as a strength and conditioning expert.He's come a long way since those days on Kevin Keegan's staff.Having previously been employed by clubs in Brazil, Colombia, England, Mexico and the United States, Osorio now has the chance to impress on a major stage.After Mexico announced their new boss,Ives Galarcep of Goal wrote: "If Osorio can develop a good working relationship with his new bosses, the Mexico job could be a perfect fit for him. It is easily the biggest job of his career, and just the kind of opportunity he has spent decades dreaming of."The opening months of Osorio's reign have been positive.After four games of their qualifying campaign for the 2018 FIFA World Cup, Mexico have a perfect record. Osorio has also had a chance to assess his options.Now, though, he needs to work out who exactly is in his first-choice team. The honeymoon period is about to end.Giovani Dos Santos will definitely not be in the best XI. The LA Galaxy forward declined the chance to represent his country again, leaving Mexico without one of their most experiencednot to mention most talentedplayers for the Copa America.However, Mexico can still flourish without both Dos Santos and Carlos Vela, who was left out of the squad after a disappointing season for Real Sociedad in Spain.Ryan Rosenblatt of Fox Soccer feels El Tri have tremendous strength in depth: "There's a reason Mexico are so excited heading into Copa America Centenario. They are exceedingly talented, and a real threat to win the tournament. One look at the roster makes that abundantly clear."Goal USA editor Thomas Floyd agreed with Rosenblatt's assessment on Twitter:Osorio has had time to get his feet under the table, but early success will be buried by a below-par Copa campaign. The heat is on.The Focal PointJavier Hernandez did not play in Mexico's last Copa campaign.However, the striker goes into this year's competition off the back of a stunning debut season with Bayer Leverkusen.Chicharito scored 17 Bundesliga goals. With each one, he added ammunition to the argument that Manchester United gave up on him too easily.While former Red Devils manager Louis van Gaal didn't want to make use of Hernandez's clinical finishing and willingness to work hard during his tenure at Old Trafford, Mexico will relish having their star available in the United States.The 27-year-old also finds himself on the verge of breaking a major milestone for his country.He has so far managed 43 goals for Mexico, leaving him just three back of all-time leading scorer Jared Borgetti. It is quite possible Hernandez could be sitting on top of the pile before the end of the summer.However, as he told Kevin Baxter of the Los Angeles Times, his biggest concern is helping Mexico to glory: "If I break it [the record], fine. If I don't, it's going to be fine for me because it's not what I dreamed about. What I dreamed about was to play in the World Cup with my country and to try to win one.But that record is there. And if I beat it or not, only God and time will tell."Hernandez may not need any help from above to reach the landmark. But, at his age, he does have plenty of time on his side.Home From HomeThe U.S. may be hosting the Copa America Centenario, but Mexico will feel right at home during the event.El Tri's loyal fans are already turning up in huge numbers just to watch their team's pre-tournament friendlies, according to journalist Tom Marshall on Twitter:Mexico's three Group C games in the Copa are staged in Glendale (against Uruguay), Pasadena (Jamaica) and Houston (Venezuela). The Mexican fanbase will swell the attendance figures in all three locations.With strength in depth on the field and the vocal support of their compatriots in the crowd, Mexico have all the ingredients required for success.
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