Mexico goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa, appearing in his fifth World Cup in Qatar, said he wanted to instil a sense of calm in the team’s young players to prevent them from feeling overwhelmed in its opening game against Poland on Tuesday.
Mexico, who missed out on top spot in the CONCACAF World Cup qualifying group to Canada on goal difference, have been eliminated in the last-16 at every World Cup since 1994.
Mexico’s clash with Poland could prove decisive in Group C, with Argentina the heavy favourite and Saudi Arabia the other side in the pool.
Since the 2018 World Cup, Mexico has lost defender Rafael Marquez, one of the country’s best ever players, to retirement. Head coach Gerardo Martino also left out Javier Hernandez, Mexico’s all-time leading scorer, despite his strong form this season to the bemusement of fans.
“There are a lot of young players who don’t have any World Cup experience,” the 37-year-old Ochoa told a news conference on Monday.
“Part of my job is to bring normalcy and calm day-to-day in training because it’s easy for emotions to take over at a World Cup, be it for a good play or an error.”
Mexico and Poland have played each other nine times, with both teams winning three games and three ending in draws. Poland have not beaten Mexico since 1978, the only time they met at a World Cup.
Mexico’s defence will to have to shut down Poland striker Robert Lewandowski, who at 34 is eager to put the team’s previous disappointing World Cup performances behind him.
“On paper we have opponents who are already seen in the next stage,” Ochoa said. “But we know we have a team with which we can compete and aspire. We want to advance. No opponent will be easy.”