MEXICO CITY — Mexico named Gerardo Martino the coach of its men’s national soccer team on Monday, but the Argentine did not make any promises that he would be the person to finally lead the highly scrutinized squad to World Cup glory.
Mexico is obsessed with reaching the World Cup quarterfinals for the first time since 1986 after a long run of second-round disappointments — defeats that brought down several of Martino’s predecessors. But Martino, who has coached Barcelona and Argentina’s national team, and who led Atlanta United to the Major League Soccer championship last month, stayed far away from guarantees in his introductory news conference.
“I can’t answer how is it that I will be able to reach the fifth game of a World Cup that is going to be played in four years, and when we still have the qualifying rounds ahead of us,” said Martino, who is known as Tata. “It’s impossible to evaluate what will happen in four years when there is so much ahead of us.”
Mexico upset Germany in its World Cup opener last summer but lost to Brazil, 2-0, in the Round of 16. It was the team’s seventh consecutive second-round exit from the tournament. Mexico has reached the quarterfinals of the World Cup only twice: in 1970 and 1986, both times when it hosted the tournament.
“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,” Mexico Football Federation President Yon De Luisa said. “We hope to be better than that in this process.”
The 56-year-old Martino takes over from the Colombian Juan Carlos Osorio, who left when his contract expired and now coaches 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 M.L.S., can definitely build a good team.”
Martino will coach his first matches with Mexico in friendly matches against Chile on March 22 in San Diego and four days later against Paraguay at Santa Clara, Calif. His first competitive match will be the Concacaf Gold Cup opener on June 15 at Pasadena, Calif.