Javier Aguirre, the coach nicknamed “El Vasco,” who turned around the fortunes of the Mexican national soccer team and guided it to the 2010 World Cup, announced his resignation Wednesday, just a few days after Mexico was eliminated from the World Cup with a 3-1 loss to Argentina in South Africa.
When Aguirre took over the team during CONCACAF World Cup qualifying 15 months ago, Mexico was in shambles and didn’t look like a team that would come close to earning one of the final three regional bids. Turnover for coaches is high in Mexico -- along with fans’ expectations -- but Aguirre accepted a second stint as coach of El Tri and had success.
From April 2009, Mexico surged into the top three and earned the No. 2 berth in the World Cup from CONCACAF, beating the U.S. in the Gold Cup for the regional championship along the way. But after Mexico finished with the second spot in Group A at the World Cup, it had to play Argentina and the players came apart after a bad call went against them.
Mexico has failed to get past the Round of 16 five straight times. It reached the quarterfinals in 1970 and 1986, when it hosted the World Cup. Clearly that isn’t good enough in Mexico, though fans’ expectations are pretty unrealistic, so Aguirre made the move.
“I have to leave, it’s the most honest thing to do. I think the future is in the hands of our young players,” Aguirre told reporters in Mexico City. “Everything I did, I did thinking of the well-being of Mexico.”
Mexico should have won its group but fell flat against Uruguay. In fact, not winning the group could go back to a 1-1 tie against South Africa in the first game, but at least Mexico got a point out of that match. Losing to Uruguay pit the Mexicans against Argentina in the Round of 16 instead of South Korea, a lower-caliber opponent.
So Mexico needs a coach. That person will be the sixth national team coach since Ricardo La Volpe left after the 2006 World Cup. The team is young and has a lot of potential and promise, but it’s hard to progress without consistency in the coaching ranks.
That said, Aguirre made some questionable decisions with his World Cup lineups. He seemed to make his choices based on his relationships with players, going with aging veterans over younger players. Guillermo Franco and Oscar Perez didn’t pan out at forward and goalkeeper, but those two aren’t likely to be back with the team in 2014, thank goodness.