Aware Mexico is obsessed with reaching the World Cup quarterfinals for the first time since 1986, Gerardo “Tata” Martino did not make any promises when he was introduced as El Tri’s new coach.
“I can’t answer how is it that I will be able to reach the fifth game of a World Cup that it’s going to be played in four years and when we still have the qualifying rounds ahead of us,” Martino said Monday. “It’s impossible to evaluate what will happen in four years when there is so much ahead of us.”
A former coach of Barcelona and Argentina’s national team, Martino joins Mexico after leading Atlanta United to Major League Soccer’s title last month in the expansion team’s second season.
Mexico upset Germany in its World Cup opener last year but lost 2-0 to Brazil in the round of 16. El Tri reached the quarterfinals only in 1970 and 1986, both at home.
“What I’m aspiring to do is to have a reliable team as soon as possible, a team that knows how to play,” Martino said. “That is the ultimate pressure that we have now as a coaching staff.”
Martino is the third Argentine to coach Mexico after Cesar Luis Menotti (1991-92) and Ricardo La Volpe (2002-06).
“Mexico has been consistent in being one of the best 16 teams in World Cups. We hope to be better than that in this process,” Mexico Football Federation President Yon De Luisa said.
The 56-year-old takes over from Colombian Juan Carlos Osorio, who left to coach Paraguay.
“My commitment is to work with all my effort to make the Mexican team a bigger one,” Martino said. “Mexico is one of the countries that have grown more in the last few years. To be able to systematically qualify to the second round in the World Cup. It’s a sign of progress.”
Martino coached Paraguay to the quarterfinals of the 2010 World Cup and a second-place finish at the 2011 Copa America, then Newell’s Old Boys to the 2013 Copa Libertadores semifinals. He led Argentina to losses in the 2015 and 2016 Copa America finals, both on penalty kicks.
“What I want to do is build a good team with a clear idea and style of play that every fan can understand,” Martino said. “The results are a consequence of your style of play and Mexico, between the players in Europe, Mexico and the MLS, can definitely build a good team.”
Martino will debut with Mexico with friendly matches against Chile on March 22 at San Diego and four days later against Paraguay at Santa Clara, California. His first competitive match will be El Tri’s CONCACAF Gold Cup opener on June 15 at Pasadena, California.