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2018 World Cup preview: Mexico

Poland v Mexico: International Friendly

GDANSK, POLAND - NOVEMBER 13: Andres Guardado of Mexico controls the ball during the International Friendly match between Poland and Mexico at Energa Arena Stadium on November 13, 2017 in Gdansk, Poland. (Photo by Adam Nurkiewicz/Getty Images)

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Getting to know Mexico: El Tri heads into the World Cup in a very strange position, despite boasting, on paper at least, one of the top attacks in the competition. Manager Juan Carlos Osorio cannot be happy with the way his side has performed in recent tune-up friendlies heading into Russia, which includes a narrow win over Scotland and a scoreless draw against Wales, neither of whom have qualified for the World Cup.

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Although Osorio will have a dangerous attack led by Javier Hernandez and Hirving Lozano, one of the main concerns heading into the competition will be the status of veteran midfielder Andres Guardado, who has battled injury just prior to the competition. His availability could be a determining factor in just how successful this team is.

For more on Mexico’s history, click this link.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ]

What group are they in? El Tri will face off against Germany, South Korea and Sweden in Group F, where Mexico will likely be in contention for second position.

Game schedule – Group F – Full 2018 World Cup schedule, here

Sunday, June 17: Germany v Mexico, Moscow 11 am, ET

Saturday, June 23: South Korea v Mexico, Sochi 11 am, ET

Wednesday, June 27: Mexico v Sweden, Kazan 10 am, ET

Projected lineup (4-3-3) -- Check out the 23-man squad list in full

Alvarez -------- Salcedo ------- Moreno ---------- Layun

Reyes ----- Herrera --- Guardado

Corona ---- Chicharito ---- Lozano

Star player: Hirving Lozano -- The Eredivisie attacker has quickly become a star in the Dutch first division at PSV Eindhoven, thrusting him into the starting XI for Mexico. He’ll be expected to get at outside backs, which he is more than capable of, while also having his hand in goals. Lozano will play opposite to Jesus “Tecatito” Corona, who also boasts significant pace and technical quality, so El Tri should be a fun attack to watch.

Manager: Juan Carlos Osorio -- Mexico breezed through CONCACAF World Cup qualifying, but Osorio has never managed a World Cup before, which is a completely different animal. On paper, this Mexico squad is loaded with talent from back to front, and it will be up to the Mexican manager to get the most out of his players.

Secret weapon: Carlos Vela -- The Los Angeles FC man has revitalized his career in Major League Soccer, boasting seven goals and five assists in his first season in the United States. With Lozano and Corona ahead of him in the pecking order, Osorio would be wise to turn to Vela at some point in the competition in a supersub role. With a dangerous left foot, Vela is very capable of cutting in from the right wing and unleashing a powerful strike or two.

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Prediction: Mexico’s path to the Round of 16 will be heavily dependent on how they come out on June 17 against Germany. Nobody expects them to win that match, however, if they can nick a positive result that could change the fortunes of El Tri moving forward in the competition. Realistically, Mexico should be favorites to finish runners’ up in the group, which should set them up with Brazil in the first knockout phase. That won’t be an ideal challenge for El Tri.