MEXICO NATIONAL TEAM
‘Tata’ Martino: “The Qatar 2022 World Cup was in accordance with Mexico’s expectations”
In an interview with The Athletic, former boss Martino has defended results achieved by the El Tri in Qatar.
Former Mexico national team manager Gerardo ‘Tata’ Martino has given his assessment of El Tri’s performance at the Qatar 2022 World Cup, claiming that his team deserved to have progressed to the round of 16 and defending the decision to effectively isolate the roster during their stay in the Middle East. The former Barcelona boss also gave his thoughts on his replacement, Diego Cocca, in an interview with The Athletic.
“Tata out” chants
Martino was widely criticised during his time of charge of Mexico, with the team seen to be underperforming after a strong start to his tenure, which saw them win the Gold Cup in 2019. A series of uninspiring performances, as well as three consecutive defeats to rivals the United States, led to “Fuera Tata” (“Tata out”) becoming a regular chant at home games in the run-up to the World Cup. Yet he was the man trusted with attempting to get El Tri out of a group containing eventual winners Argentina, Poland and Saudi Arabia.
Mexico “should’ve faced France in the second round”
That ultimately didn’t happen, with Mexico missing out on a place in the last 16 on goal difference, which Martino believes was unfair: “Based on our performances, we should’ve been the team that faced France in the second round, especially after what occurred in our final group stage match. The players’ effort during all three games at the World Cup cannot be questioned.”
Results “in accordance with expectations”
Much of the talk in Mexico before the tournament was whether El Tri could finally play ‘el quinto partido’ (‘the fifth game’, i.e. the quarter-finals), a reference to the fact that they had been eliminated in the round of 16 (‘the fourth game’) in seven consecutive World Cups since 1994. Martino, however, seemingly prefers to assess the tournament on a game-by-game basis in an attempt to defend their group-stage exit: “When I evaluated what happened at the World Cup, I believe the results were predictable in accordance with Mexico’s expectations”.
Mexico players “shielded” from “contamination” in Qatar
There were many factors which caused El Tri to fail to make it to the knockout stages and one which has been highlighted is Martino’s decision, made with former FMF (Mexico Soccer Federation) president Yon de Luisa, to isolate the players at their base camp, which was an hour outside Doha, and keep the media at arm’s length for the duration of their stay in Qatar:
“We shielded the players from everything. From that point of view, it went very well. You don’t have to be in contact with the outside world to understand what it means to play in a World Cup. The players need their privacy. They were already heavily burdened by the demands and expectations of a World Cup.
“There are other national teams who do things differently. They’re used to more contact. For us, it was important to isolate ourselves and not contaminate the camp with what was happening on the outside. We had to answer on the field.”
Martino warns Cocca of “scrutiny”
Unfortunately for Martino and Mexico, there were more questions than answers and the Argentine was swiftly removed from his role following the team’s elimination from the tournament. After a period of deliberation, Tigres boss Diego Cocca was selected as his replacement and Martino has warned his compatriot he will have to get up and running quickly if he is to have any chance of succeeding: “I hope he has a lot of success as the national team’s manager. The path won’t be easy for him. He hasn’t coached many games and he’s already going through what I began to experience at the end of my second year and at the start of my third year. (That scrutiny) is like a sport (in Mexico). I hope he has the strength to withstand it and move forward.”
Cocca’s slow but steady start
Cocca’s first two competitive games in charge ended with a victory away to Suriname and a draw at home to Jamaica in the group stages of the CONCACAF Nations League. On Wednesday, a Tri team made up of only Liga MX players drew a friendly game against the USMNT, who they will also face in their next match, a CONCACAF Nations League semi-final.