The man Mexico wanted to lead its national soccer program three years ago finally accepted the job Thursday. But it may be three years too late since Victor Manuel Vucetich is inheriting a team on the verge of missing the World Cup for the first time since 1990.
When he was introduced at a Mexico City news conference, Vucetich became Mexico's third coach in five days. Jose Manuel "Chepo" de la Torre was fired early Saturday following a World Cup qualifying loss to Honduras. Luis Fernando Tena replaced De la Torre on an interim basis, losing 2-0 to the U.S. on Tuesday in Columbus, Ohio, in his only match.
That loss dropped Mexico to fifth place in the six-team CONCACAF qualifying tournament with two matches remaining, leaving it with only the slightest of mathematical hopes of finishing in the top three and earning a guaranteed berth in Brazil next summer.
However, Mexico could still make the World Cup if it finishes fourth in the CONCACAF tournament then wins a two-leg November playoff with New Zealand for one of two play-in berths in Brazil.
Vucetich turned down an offer to manage the national team in 2010 for family reasons. And the longtime Mexican first-division coach admits the challenges he faces now are enormous.
"For me, this is a personal challenge and something that I'm missing as a coach," Vucetich, 58, told the media. "And even though it's a critical situation, [Mexican] soccer has given a lot to me and this is a moment that I can also give back from what it has given me.
"Yes it's the most important challenge of my career, without a doubt."
Yet it's one he's perfectly suited for if his nickname is any indication: Vucetich has long been known as "King Midas" for his ability to turn poor teams around.
"Hopefully this hot potato turns into a gold potato," he said. "But I consider that what we have to do is to work. And not commit errors. We have no margin for error."