DALLAS -- Mexico goalkeeping legend Oswaldo Sanchez spent the 1998 and 2002 World Cups on El Tri's bench before finally getting his opportunity to shine at Germany 2006. The Guadalajara native earned 100 caps for Mexico, was named best goalkeeper in the 2005 Confederations Cup and ranks as one of El Tri's best ever stoppers.
Sanchez is also a figure with a unique perspective on the current Mexican goalkeeping situation, given that Guillermo Ochoa and Jesus Corona were under his wing at the 2006 World Cup. To find out his thoughts on El Tri's goalkeepers, the current generation of Mexican players and coach Juan Carlos Osorio, ESPN FC caught up with Sanchez for an exclusive interview.
(The interview was carried out in Spanish and has been edited for clarity.)
ESPN FC: What's your take on the quality of the three goalkeepers currently in the Mexico national team squad -- Ochoa, Corona and Alfredo Talavera?
Oswaldo Sanchez: I see the three goalkeepers as being even. Whichever one of [Ochoa], Corona and Talavera plays I think would do well. I think that [Ochoa] right now is just ahead because in the important national team games, Juan Carlos Osorio has tended to start him.
ESPN FC: What would you say the strengths of each are?
Sanchez: The three are very different. I think that the most complete of the three is Talavera, because he is a guy that has strong legs, is good in the air, plays well with his feet and has good reactions. In Corona's case, he's very safe with his hands and he's always well positioned, so that he doesn't need to dive so much because he's always in the right position. [Ochoa] is perhaps the most spectacular because he's got very long arms and his reactions are very good.
ESPN FC: And their weaknesses?
Sanchez: All three are very complete and all goalkeepers at domestic and international level have things to improve ... [Ochoa] could perhaps correct his aerial game a little bit, [Corona] his strength so he can reach further [in his distribution] and in Talavera's case that personality that [Ochoa] and [Corona] have to spare.
ESPN FC: Osorio has given each of the goalkeepers opportunities in his time with the national team. Do you think that has fomented the internal competition?
Sanchez: Juan Carlos likes rotations, that is clear. I believe that rotations in goal aren't beneficial to any goalkeeper because the 'keeper needs to feel like the starter, needs to go to sleep ahead of the game knowing he's going to play. I think now he's inclining to tell them who is the starter ahead of time. But what I can say is that whoever it is will do well because all three are more than capable. [Ochoa] is 32 and has already played a World Cup, Corona is 35 and has been to a World Cup without playing and was a key part of the most important triumph in Mexican football with the Olympic gold. Talavera is a guy who has consolidated his career in Toluca, who has been champion many times and needs to prove his form and role in the national team, even at 36 [Talavera is actually 35].
ESPN FC: How different is it going into a World Cup knowing you are the starter compared to a backup?
Sanchez: Very. When you know you are starting you have a different tension and passion. Why? Because you have a big responsibility and when you are on the bench you are a little more relaxed, although still enthused and excited that at any moment you could go on.
ESPN FC: How big was Ochoa becoming the first Mexico goalkeeper to play club football in Europe?
Sanchez: Firstly, I appreciate and value what [Ochoa] has done in becoming the first Mexican goalkeeper to play in Europe, in taking a risk. Secondly, it has been difficult for him to consolidate himself in a big team, that's a reality. He's always been in small teams. Now he's happy because he's won a cup in Belgium. People expect a lot of him because he's got a high profile, especially with youngsters.
ESPN FC: Did you have opportunities to go to Europe?
Sanchez: Yes. There was interest from Europe from Spanish and English teams.
ESPN FC: Which ones?
Sanchez: Right now, I wouldn't like to say because the time has gone and people could think that it is made up. But I did have the opportunity to become the first Mexican goalkeeper in Europe and honestly I didn't accept for personal reasons.
ESPN FC: How close were you to signing?
Sanchez: Very close, both in England and Spain.
ESPN FC: What do you think of the next generation of Mexican goalkeepers -- Rodolfo Cota, Gibran Lajud, Raul Gudino, Hugo Gonzalez?
Sanchez: It's positive. I wouldn't put Cota in the conversation because he's 30 and he's not so young, although he could reach the next World Cup at the top of his career.
Lajud has really strongly caught my attention because he's a guy that was a starter in the national team under-20s, under-23s and arrived at Xolos to be understudy to Federico Vilar, who was doing well. Lajud has owned the starting spot and today he's the goalkeeper who has let in least goals in the Mexican league.
Hugo Gonzalez seems to have the ability to strengthen and fight for a spot in the national team, but for that to happen he has to win back his starting place with Monterrey. I like him a lot and he's someone who came out of the Club America youth system, so he knows what it is like to play in a big team.
Then there are others that are young and aren't starters, but who in four years could be in the next World Cup. I'd pick out Carlos Acevedo at Santos, Carlos Felipe Rodriguez, who was the starter at Morelia and suddenly disappeared.
ESPN FC: Are you worried about perceived lack of opportunities for Mexican goalkeepers in Liga MX?
Sanchez: It worries me a lot. Mexico never used to bring in goalkeepers, and if you analyze it, there are a lot of Mexican teams that have foreign starters. I feel that it's clipped the wings of goalkeepers that could've found a place and improved not to be considered for only the national team, but also for European football.
ESPN FC: Is the current Mexican national team generation the best ever?
Sanchez: I think that this is a very important generation, which has the advantage that many of them were world champions at under-17 level and some were Olympic champions. Others are in European teams and have had the opportunity to play in different countries and that makes them stronger.
It's when the World Cup is over that we'll really be able to determine whether it has been the best generation, but in terms of possibilities, development and experience, I think they have the advantage.
ESPN FC: How do you rate Osorio's time in charge of El Tri?
Sanchez: For me it has been very good and I'll tell you why. It is very simple: he has qualified for the World Cup strolling and with calm. It's true he has had two hurtful defeats -- the 7-0 against Chile in Santa Clara and that game against Germany in the Confederations Cup -- but it appears that he's a coach who has learned from his errors in running the national team and I think his project is now more solid.
He's not wedded to chasing games, he's looking to play with two holding midfielders, he's more measured and at the beginning he went a bit wild. I think that he's given the national team an important identity because he has created a positive synergy in positions. The fact that he plays one striker and then another in the next game has created internal competition.
ESPN FC: It seems that the requirements of the modern goalkeeper are changing rapidly with the emphasis on keepers being good with their feet. Would you agree with that?
Sanchez: Yes. It's clear that with tactical schemes today that being good with your feet is an advantage. But I'll tell you something else: it's important to be modern, but the most important thing is that the goalkeeper stops the ball going in.