Mexico are set to face Nigeria on Wednesday night in Atlanta, with both sides prepared to use the friendly as a warm-up to the World Cup. The coaches of both sides will be looking to determine the final few players going to Brazil, as well as finding the perfect lineup to play in the tournament.
Nigeria qualified for Brazil with a 4-1 aggregate win over Ethiopia in the third round of Africa's qualification. The current holders of the Africa Cup of Nations didn't do all that much to impress in the group stages, drawing three games and winning the others by narrow margins. In South Africa, the Super Eagles collected just a point, from a draw with South Korea, losing to Argentina and Greece to go out in the first round.
They'll need to do a bit better this time around if they want to make it to the Round of 16 for the first time since 1998. Nigeria are once again drawn into a group with Argentina, where they're joined by Bosnia and Iran. With both Argentina and Bosnia capable of knocking in more than a few goals, the Super Eagles will need to tighten up their defense.
With that in mind, coach Stephen Keshi has brought Joseph Yobo back into the fold. The 33-year-old, on loan at Norwich City from Fenerbahce, is likely to be joined in central defense by Kunle Odunlami, one of the best players at the African Nations Championship in 2014. Nigeria also boast the MVP of that tournament, winger Ejike Uzoeny. Finally, the Super Eagles have an excellent goalkeeper in Lille's Vincent Enyeama, which may help them hold steady against high-scoring sides.
Of which Mexico is not necessarily included. The fourth round of CONCACAF qualifying saw Mexico score just seven goals in ten matches, four of which were goalless draws. El Tri's unimpressive performances saw them come fourth in qualifying, sending them into a playoff against New Zealand. That's when Mexico started knocking in the goals, beating the Oceania team 9-3 on aggregate.
Miguel Herrera, who took over as coach prior to the playoff match, must now find the perfect offensive combination to combat the other sides in Group A - Brazil, Croatia and Cameroon. He's without Villarreal forward Giovani Dos Santos, who injured his calf last weekend. That might be to Herrera's preference, as the coach doesn't have much good to say about Dos Santos. Herrera prefers a 5-3-2 formation, which doesn't leave a lot of room for the 24-year-old, who tends to play in the hole.
América's Raúl Jiménez is the one who replaces Dos Santos, giving Herrera time to assess his effectiveness up front. He could partner alongside Javier Hernández, who hasn't had much playing time for Manchester United recently. Alan Pulido, who scored a hattrick in the friendly against South Korea in January, is another option up top, while Herrera already knows the effectiveness of Oribe Peralta, who also scored in the friendly against Korea, and had his own hat-trick against New Zealand.
Goalkeepers: Jesús Corona, Moisés Muñoz, Guillermo Ochoa
Midfielders: Andrés Guardado, José Juan Vazquez, Hector Herrera, Juan Carlos Medina, Isaac Brizuela, Javier Aquino, Carlos Peña, Luis Montes
Strikers: Raúl Jiménez, Alan Pulido, Oribe Peralta, Javier Hernández
Goalkeepers: Vincent Enyeama, Austin Ejide
Defenders: Elderson Echiejile, Efe Ambrose, Godfrey Oboabona, Azubuike Egwuekwe, Kenneth Omeruo, Juwon Oshaniwa, Joseph Yobo, Kunle Odunlami
Match Date / Time: Wednesday, March 5 at 8:30 p.m. ET
Venue: Georgia Dome, Atlanta, USA
TV: UniMás, ESPNEWS, Univision Deportes (USA)
Online: ESPN3 (USA); bet365