Wolverhampton Wanderers striker Raul Jimenez has the requisites to step up and become a leader in Mexico‘s national team, said El Tri coach Gerardo “Tata” Martino ahead of the squad’s friendly against the Netherlands on Wednesday (watch the match on ESPN2 at 2:45 p.m. ET in the U.S.).
“There are natural occurrences in football, cycles that change and that open the path for other footballers,” said Martino in a video conference from Amsterdam. “And what is happening with Raul, like it could with Jesus Corona, is that they are taking the baton that the more experienced players, who are much closer to the end, are passing on.
Mexico captain Andres Guardado, 34, had stated in an interview with TUDN on Monday that Jimenez “is the new leader of this national team” and Martino agreed, with the striker having taken over the starting spot from Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez since the last World Cup.
“I think Raul has the chance, with other teammates, of taking charge of this generation,” added Martino.
Mexico is playing its first game against European opposition under Martino, after recording 16 wins and scoring 50 goals in the ex-Barcelona coach’s first 18 games, all of which have been against opposition from the Americas.
Martino highlighted the importance of both the game against the Dutch and the friendly against Africa Cup of Nations champion Algeria next Tuesday, despite the difficulties getting the squad into camp in Amsterdam during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It would’ve been a sin not to take advantage of these types of opponent,” said Martino, who has regularly stressed the need to play against high-quality opponents as often as possible.
Monterrey midfielder Carlos Rodriguez didn’t travel for the matches because he tested positive for COVID-19, announced the Mexican federation on Tuesday, while Club America goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa missed out do to injury and Napoli‘s Hirving Lozano wasn’t allowed to travel due to local coronavirus restrictions in Italy.
Despite Netherlands’ resurgence, Milan van Dongen questions whether Frank de Boer is the right man for the job.
The game will be the first for Frank de Boer as the Netherlands head coach after he parted ways with Atlanta United FC in August, with the match pitting him against the club’s 2018 MLS Cup winning coach Martino.
“It’s a coincidence, it’s almost like the coronavirus, that originated in China and ended up all over the world,” said Martino. “One was born in Holland, the other in Rosario [in Argentina] and we are put together now because were were coincidentally managers of the same team.”
“Life takes you down different paths, it’s unpredictable and sometimes in certain moments commonalities occur and Atlanta is a very good motive to have him in common because he surely will have enjoyed it like I did.”
De Boer said Monday that he respects Martino and expects an interesting game, even though he admitted that upcoming UEFA Nations League games against Bosnia & Herzegovina and Italy (watch UEFA Nations League games on ESPN+ in the U.S.) are the priority for the Netherlands in this international break.
“I know Tata and his style. It’ll be an interesting game. In Atlanta he was very direct, they tried to use one on one [situations] and played in a very attacking way,” said De Boer. “He did a great job in Atlanta and I think he is also doing so now with Mexico.”
Mexico is expected to start the game with Alfredo Talavera in goal, a back four of Luis Rodriguez, Cesar Montes, Hector Moreno and Jesus Gallardo, with Edson Alvarez, Hector Herrera and Guardado in midfield and Corona, Rodolfo Pizarro and Jimenez up front.