Mexico will line-up against Cameroon on Friday evening in their opening World Cup Group A fixture without one of their most influential players in Carlos Vela, but why isn’t the Real Sociedad striker in Brazil with the rest of his international team-mates?
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Vela has made 35 appearances for Mexico since making his debut in 2007, but he has not been capped by his country since 2011 after he received a six-month suspension for attending a party following the 3-1 victory over Ecuador in Monterrey.
Having initially been banned in 2010 along with colleague Efrain Juarez as well as being fined 50,000 Mexican peso along with 12 other players, Vela returned to the international set-up in February 2011 when head coach Jose Manuel de la Torre named him in the Mexico squad to face Venezuela.
However, following criticism for his performances in the green of Mexico and a strained relationship with the Mexico Football Federation executives, Vela refused to join up with the squad for the 2011 Concacaf Gold Cup.
Mexico: Group A team profile
Mexico: Group A team profile
1/5 How they qualified
Mexico edged into the World Cup play-offs in dramatic fashion after two late goals from USA sunk Panama which allowed El Tri to secure a fourth-place finish in the CONCACAF qualifying group. Indeed, Panama were set to leapfrog Miguel Herrera’s side on the final matchday of World Cup qualification but were left heartbroken when their 2-1 lead was reversed by USA in stoppage time. Instead Mexico entered and successfully negotiated a two-leg play-off with New Zealand, thus rectifying an unconvincing campaign.
Miguel Herrera has been given the job on a permanent basis after initially being announced as interim Mexico coach in October, ahead of November’s World Cup play-off with New Zealand. The 45-year-old was brought in when previous coach Victor Manuel Vucetich was relieved of his duties after just two games in charge. Herrera retained control of Mexican club side Club America simultaneously because he was offered no guarantee that his position in charge of the national side would continue beyond the second leg against New Zealand on November 20. And Club America have since confirmed that Herrera will remain in charge for the rest of the domestic season. The manager successfully won the backing of the Mexican Federation of Football - who want to secure his services until 2018 - following the emphatic style with which he guided Mexico to their sixth consecutive World Cup finals.
3/5 Star player
The current star of Mexican outfit Santos Laguna, Oribe Peralta, has seen his international career really take off in the last year. The 29-year-old can be regarded as a late bloomer, having only risen to prominence in the past 18 months after initially making his debut back in 2005. He scored twice in the Gold Medal match against Brazil at the London 2012 Olympics which secured Mexico’s first Olympic crown, and has been in superb form for his country ever since. Peralta has hit 10 goals in his last 11 international games, including a hat-trick in the 4-2 win over New Zealand in the World Cup play-off. He has managed to squeeze Manchester United striker Javier Hernandez out of the team and Mexico will be reliant on their in-form talisman to come up with the goods if they wish to make their mark.
4/5 Emerging talent
22-year-old Raul Jimenez travelled to the London Olympics with the gold medal-winning Mexico side last summer, but failed to make an appearance as his country beat Brazil to land their first ever Olympic football medal. It says something about his progression, however, that Jimenez has muscled his way into Miguel Herrera’s senior national side while the majority of his Olympic teammates have gradually fallen by the wayside. The forward scored a remarkable acrobatic goal to see Mexico past Panama in the group stages; a goal which ultimately – despite a little help from USA on the final matchday - secured El Tri a play-off berth.
5/5 How they will line up (5-3-2)
Ochoa; Marquez, Rodriguez, Aguilar, Moreno, Layun; Jimenez, Medina, Dos Santos; Oribe Peralta, Javier Hernandez
The 25-year-old also refused to be a part of Mexico’s successful Olympic team for the London 2012 Games, and made a third snub to his country when he was asked to join up for the 2014 World Cup qualifiers in March last year.
In a final last-ditch attempt to persuade the Sociedad striker to feature in Brazil, MFF officials flew to Spain for talks with Vela about taking part in the World Cup, but he announced earlier this year that he “100 per cent mentally ready to represent Mexico”, with new manager Víctor Manuel Vucetich labelling Vela’s World Cup inclusion as a “closed case”.
Instead of dazzling in front of the world’s eyes in Brazil, Vela will spend the summer orchestrating where his future lies, with his former club Arsenal set to trigger a £3.5m buy-back clause in his contract in an effort to bring him back to the Emirates.
While Sociedad president Jokin Aperribay confirmed talks have taken place with the Premier League side, but he added that he remains hopeful of keeping hold of Vela as the striker wants to stay in Spain.
“Arsenal have informed us that Vela would be with them next season,” said Aperribay. “We are fortunate that the player is keen to stay in San Sebastian with us and that's an important factor for Real Sociedad.”
Former Tottenham midfielder Giovanni Dos Santos is expected to lead the line this evening against Cameroon, with Manchester United’s Javier Hernandez set to start the match on the bench.