Football

Published: Monday October 21, 2013 MYT 6:09:31 AM
Updated: Monday October 21, 2013 MYT 6:09:42 AM

Coach Herrera turns to Mexico survival task

Mexico's new national soccer team coach Miguel Herrera poses during his presentation to the media in Mexico City October 20, 2013. REUTERS/Henry Romero

Mexico's new national soccer team coach Miguel Herrera poses during his presentation to the media in Mexico City October 20, 2013. REUTERS/Henry Romero

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Mexico's new coach Miguel Herrera named a squad including 10 players from his club America to prepare for next month's World Cup playoff against New Zealand, saying the country's prestige as a soccer nation was at stake.

Herrera, who became Mexico's fourth coach in six weeks on Friday after their failure to qualify directly for the 2014 Brazil finals, takes his team to face New Zealand over two legs at the Azteca on November 13 and in Wellington on November 20.

"It's not only me who's putting his prestige at risk, we all are... What's needed in moments like these is to strengthen the group's heads," Herrera, known for his motivational powers, told a news conference at his official presentation as national team coach.

"This seat doesn't burn, we're here thinking of getting the (World Cup) ticket and we'll succeed. I'd never say no to my national team... so now I'm the happiest man on the planet to have been chosen to be here.

"We're sure we'll get off the plane (from New Zealand) with the great happiness of giving our federation and country our accounts and the World Cup ticket and then I'll be back to work with America."

Herrera, whose club side lead the Apertura championship, will remain at the America helm for Tuesday's CONCACAF Champions League match against Alajuelense of Costa Rica before concentrating on Mexico.

Defending champions America, who are six points clear at the top of the Apertura standings after a 1-1 draw at Cruz Azul on Saturday, have already qualified for the eight-team knockout phase for the league title.

The 22 players in the squad the stocky Herrera, nicknamed Piojo (louse) picked for a friendly warmup against Finland on October 30 are all with Mexican clubs.

"There are lots of America people because there's little time to work, because they know perfectly well what we want on the pitch and this way we can reach the level we need a lot quicker," Herrera said.

He added that it was unlikely he would call any of Mexico's foreign-based players like Manchester United striker Javier Hernandez and Villarreal's Giovani dos Santos because they were not in good form.

Herrera, on loan to the Mexico team until after the playoff, has replaced Victor Vucetich, who lasted two qualifiers after Jose Manuel de la Torre and Luis Fernando Tena both lost the job before him.

The Mexican Football Federation may choose to retain Herrera for the World Cup finals but there will be a board meeting in December to evaluate his performance and future.

Mexico have qualified for all the World Cup tournaments since 1986 apart from 1990 when they were banned for fielding over-age players in the World Youth Cup.

Squad:

Goalkeepers: Jesus Corona (Cruz Azul), Moises Munoz (America)

Defenders: Rafael Marquez (Leon), Juan Carlos Valenzuela, Francisco Rodriguez, Adrian Aldrete, Paul Aguilar, Miguel Layun (all America), Miguel Herrera (Pachuca), Hiram Mier (Monterrey), Rodrigo Salinas (Morelia)

Midfielders: Juan Carlos Medina, Luis Mendoza, Jesus Molina (all America), Lucas Lobos (UANL Tigres), Carlos Pena, Edwin Hernandez, Luis Montes (all Leon)

Forwards: Jesus Escoboza, Oribe Peralta (both Santos Laguna), Raul Jimenez (America), Aldo De Nigris (Guadalajara)

(Writing by Rex Gowar in Buenos Aires; Editing by Clare Fallon)

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