Martino takes reins of Mexican football team

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Mexico City, Jan 8 (IANS) Gerardo “Tata” Martino, who turns 60 a day before the start of the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, is banking that he can be a transformative figure as coach of the Mexican national football team, dishing out tough love on the practice field and providing grandfatherly support off the field.

Martino takes the squad’s helm at a high point in his career, having just led Atlanta United FC to the Major League Soccer (MLS) title, reports Efe.

The coach, who took control of the national team on Monday, is aiming to win the Copa Oro next summer, using that continental competition to position Mexico for a deep run at the 2022 World Cup, which starts on November 21, a day after Martino hits 60.

Martino, the 2018 MLS Coach of the Year, is known for being demanding but also for cultivating good relationships with his players, taking them under his wing and serving as a father figure.

The Argentine coach takes over a Mexican national team whose fans are feeling frustrated after failing to advance beyond the round of 16 at seven straight World Cups and dreaming of making a run into the quarterfinals in Qatar.

Martino has tasted success in international competitions, leading Argentina to the Copa America final in 2015 and 2016, and Paraguay to the final in the same tournament in 2011.

The Argentine coach, in fact, led Paraguay to the World Cup quarterfinals in South Africa in 2010.

Martino won the 2013 Supercopa with Barcelona in Spain and reached two Copa Libertadores semifinals, leading Newell’s Old Boys, in 2013, and Paraguay’s Libertad, in 2016, to the semis of South America’s premier club tournament.

Under Martino, Newell’s Old Boys won the 2013 Copa Libertadores and Libertad took home three Paraguayan league titles.

Several of the national soccer team’s top players are past their prime, but Mexico has a long list of players who are 23 or younger and ready to step in and make their mark.

Among the players who Martino will be able to use as building blocks for the national team is talented forward Hirving Lozano, who plays for Dutch club PSV Eindhoven.

Other promising players are forward Victor Guzman; midfielders Diego Lainez, Roberto Alvarado, Orbelin Pineda, Erick Gutierrez, Daniel Lajud and Jonathan Gonzalez; defenders Cesar Montes and Edson Alvarez; and goalkeeper Raul Gudillo, among others.

With his ability to get the most out of his players, Martino is expected to help the team’s youngsters develop quickly and leverage the experience of veterans for a big run at the World Cup.

Martino will make his international debut at Mexico’s helm in friendlies against Chile on March 22 and Paraguay on March 26 in the United States.

The March 26 contest will pit the former Paraguayan national team coach against Colombian Juan Carlos Osorio, who now coaches the South American squad and led Mexico to the World Cup in Russia last year.

–IANS

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