Reporting from Bayreuth, Germany -- It's unlikely any of Mexico's World Cup hopefuls felt more pressure going into Sunday's game with Gambia than Adolfo Bautista.
Time had robbed the 31-year-old striker of much of his speed, and a lack of playing time this spring robbed him of much of his opportunity to show Coach Javier Aguirre what he had left for South Africa.
But it was the calendar more than the clock that has weighed heaviest on him lately. Before May turns to June, Aguirre has to trim one player from his roster to get down to the World Cup limit of 23. And the smart money said that player would be Bautista — a bet Bautista tried to change Sunday with a pair of second-half goals in a 5-1 win.
Yet afterward it was hard to tell whether Aguirre, referring to Bautista by his nickname, was welcoming him to the team or reading his eulogy.
"Bofo is a player who has, like Cuauhtemoc [Blanco] has the special talent to take over a game," said Aguirre, who, nevertheless, waited until March to call Bautista up to the national team. "They're very distinct players.
"But the best thing Bofo has is a big personality."
Whether that earns him a seat on the plane to South Africa or a trip back to Mexico will be announced Monday, after Aguirre has had a chance to meet with his staff.
"This isn't easy for me," Aguirre said. "But those are the rules. We can only take 23, not 24."
Speculation over who would be voted off Mexico's island centered on Bautista and 20-year-old midfielder Jonathan dos Santos. Both were given long looks Sunday, going all 90 minutes and, despite dreadful weather and an even more dreadful opponent, Bautista seemed to do the most to improve his chances.
Daylong rains turned the already soggy pitch into a quagmire, and at times the game was more comic than competitive with players repeatedly slipping and falling.
Javier Hernandez slogged his way through the bog to score early in the opening half and again five minutes into second half. Bautista took over from there.
His first goal came 58 minutes in after pretty passes from Blanco and Alberto Medina left him so open up the right side all Bautista had to do was stay upright and strike the ball cleanly — both of which he did — to score.
His second goal came 15 minutes later. Medina closed out the rout with his second goal in Mexico's last four games.
But regardless of what Aguirre announces Monday, Bautista is going to South Africa. This month he was one of 22 contestants who won an all-expenses-paid trip to South Africa for the tournament.
The only question now is, should he pack his jersey?