Through late April, SI.com will profile two World Cup teams a week. We continue with Mexico. Click here for the full archive.
FIFA world ranking: No. 6.
How they qualified for Germany: Finished second in CONCACAF with a 7-1-2 record, behind the United States. Although both nations finished with the same record, the U.S. was named the group winner based on a better goal differential in head-to-head qualifiers.
Previous World Cups and finishes: 12 appearances (1930, '50, '54, '58, '62, '66, '70, '78, '86, '94, '98, 2002). Quarterfinals in '70 and '86.
Manager: Ricardo Lavolpe, fourth year with team.
Perhaps the most recognizable figure on El Tri is Rafael Márquez. The Barcelona man is this generation's best talent and is the rock on an emerging defense -- he could easily lead Mexico's backline in the next two World Cups. Márquez's mate in the backline, Carlos Salcido, is a rising star and adds some offense to an outstanding defensive repertoire.
Bolton striker Jared Borgetti will be counted on to score. A classy forward, he's lethal in the air and has already proven he can score against the game's giants. "The Desert Fox" scored the game-winner in Mexico's win over Brazil in last year's Confederations Cup. Four years ago, his goal against Italy was one of the top goals of the '02 World Cup.
Mexico's hopes, however, fall on the gloves of Oswaldo Sánchez. The talented goalkeeper will appear in his third World Cup, but he has yet to play a single minute on the world's greatest stage. This time, however, he is unquestionably El Tri's No. 1 man in net.
What to watch for
Mexico's years of regional dominance has hardly translated into global success. It has never gone further than the quarterfinals in the World Cup, and on both occasions, the tournament was held within its borders. In the last three tournaments, El Tri played thrilling soccer in the first round but crashed out in spectacular fashion in the first knockout match, the lowlight coming four years ago in a stunning 2-0 loss to the U.S.
For Mexico to slay its World Cup ghosts, it will need a monumental effort. The first round shouldn't be a problem, although Portugal is a title contender. Mexico needs to think like a World Cup power to overcome its second-round stumbling blocks. The story has been the same since '94: against Bulgaria, Germany and the U.S., Mexico folded at the slightest bit of adversity and has gone out on penalty kicks, a furious comeback and an impenetrable defense, respectively.
Perhaps the greatest strength Mexico has in that regard is its youthful exuberance. There has been heavy turnover since Lavolpe took over. This generation of Mexican footballers might not care about the previous teams' failures and could very well stand toe-to-toe with Argentina, the Netherlands or whomever else it might face in the knockout rounds.
Group: D (Iran, Angola, Portugal).
Key match in group stage: June 11 vs. Iran. El Tri needs a strong showing in its opener. Iran is no pushover; for Mexico take the Iranians lightly would be a lethal mistake. Mexico finishes the group stage against Portugal, and to go into that match needing three points could be catastrophic.