(Reuters) - Pessimism surrounds Mexico as they gear up for the World Cup in Qatar after inconsistency in qualifying and warm-up matches.
Despite finishing second in the eight-team CONCACAF qulifiers behind Canada, Gerardo 'Tata' Martino's side drew criticism for the performances, with their toothless attack posing a major concern.
Mexico, who lost the CONCACAF Nations League and Gold Cup finals against the U.S. last year, have averaged one goal per game in their 15 competitive matches and friendlies in 2022.
'El Tri' fans and a large section of the Mexican soccer media continue to question their Argentinian coach, who is under immense pressure to turn around their fortunes.
But Martino believes the pessimism will only motivate the team to prove the critics wrong.
"If someone is a pessimist, they shouldn't change their opinion if this team does well at the World Cup," Martino said in September.
"Perhaps they'll change their mind briefly. But, yes, the environment around the team is absolutely one of pessimism.
"I tend to believe that will strengthen the group internally. And the way things are going, this pessimism will make us stronger before we play a World Cup."
Mexico will be looking to end a 36-year wait for a place in the quarter-finals, having reached the last 16 in each of the previous seven editions.
They face a stern test in Group C, where they are paired alongside Argentina, Saudi Arabia and Poland.
Injuries are the latest problem threatening Mexico's campaign in Qatar, with a number of key players sidelined.
Martino has said he will make a last-minute decision on the inclusion of Raul Jimenez (groin) and Jesus 'Tecatito' Corona (fractured fibula), while Rogelio Funes Mori, Luis Romo and Jorge Sanchez are recovering and Hector Herrera is a doubt.
With Mexico desperate for goals and short on options, all-time top scorer Javier 'Chicharito' Hernandez could have been the one to fill the void but the LA Galaxy forward was left out of their initial 31-man squad despite his good form this season.
Hernandez, who has played at three World Cups, has not earned a place in the squad since 2019.
Winger Hirving Lozano, forward Alexis Vega and versatile midfielder Edson Alvarez will have to step up if Mexico are to spring a surprise at the finals.