The final round of World Cup qualifying was supposed to be a cakewalk for Mexico. The CONCACAF champions had so much more talent than any other team that the Hex was really just going to be a chance to fine-tune things for next year, when they hoped to be a darkhorse at the 2014 World Cup.
But Jamaica flipped the script in the first match of the round, outplaying Mexico in a draw at the Azteca and bringing El Tri back down to Earth. Mexico hasn't gotten back off the ground either.
Since drawing in their opening match, Mexico has drawn twice more, including again at the Azteca against the United States, and remain winless in the Hex. The heat has been turned up on Jose Manuel "Chepo" de la Torre and El Tri currently sit in fifth place in the group, outside of a World Cup place, with most of their toughest matches yet to play.
If Mexico are going to climb the Hex table, it will have to start on Tuesday night in Jamaica and it will have to look very different than when these teams met back in February. Then, the Reggae Boyz should have won, but Jobi McAnuff and Ryan Johnson each blew golden chances to allow Mexico to get away with an undeserved point.
Jamaica's speed gave Mexico fits, especially with the way they closed down Hector Herrera and Carlos Salcido in the center of the midfield. But if Friday's friendly was any indication, Mexico will start Jesus Zavala and Gerardo Torrado in the middle this time around, both of whom are better equipped to handle the Reggae Boyz's pressure. El Tri will also have Pablo Barrera available on the right, giving them a scintillating winger who will not just create chances, but also open space in the middle for others.
Three matches into the 10-man Hex, Jamaica are the only team below Mexico in the table with just two points, one behind Mexico. If either team loses in Kingston on Tuesday night, they will have a steep uphill climb to get to the World Cup. It's not an elimination match, but it is close. Both teams need a win, especially Mexico and Chepo, who could be fired before long if he doesn't turn around a Hex that should have been a coronation, but has instead started as a train wreck.
Match date/time: Tuesday, June 4; 9:30 p.m. ET
Venue: Independence Park, Kingston, Jamaica
TV: Telemundo (USA Spanish), TDN Mexico (Mexico), TV Azteca 7 (Mexico)