Soccer-World-Herrera hops on board for late ride to Brazil

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By Carlos Calvo MEXICO CITY, April 28 (Reuters) - Miguel Herrera, a compact man who punches above his weight, fell into the job of taking Mexico to the World Cup finals after three predecessors departed in quick succession last year. Herrera won the 2012-13 Clausura (season opening) title with America in May and led them to the 2013-14 Apertura (closing) final before being called up to answer a national emergency in October. Jose Manuel de la Torre, his assistant Luis Fernando Tena and Victor Vucetich had failed to change Mexico's course in the six-team final CONCACAF qualifying round and were sacked in quick succession in the space of six weeks. Mexico were threatened with elimination before scraping into an intercontinental playoff with New Zealand in November to gain one of the last berths at the Brazil finals. "The truth is I wasn't expecting my appointment, I was hoping to raise my hand for the next process because I was sure 'Chepo' (del la Torre) would make it," Herrera told Reuters. "Suddenly it fell to me on the bounce: I'm asked for a result, I get it and they bet on me carrying on," he said in an interview. Nicknamed "El Piojo" (The Louse) partly because of his short stature, Herrera will attempt to repeat with the national team the feat he achieved with America, the big Mexico City team owned by media giant Televisa. He arrived there in 2012 charged with pulling them out of a crisis. Last season's Clausura victory gave America a record-equalling 11th league title in the professional era and their first since 2005, a long time for a major club in Latin America. "I was fine at America, but to be with the national team is another world, it's a coach's ultimate achievement. My goal is not just to be at this World Cup - my goal is to be sitting here until 2018, that's the challenge I have," said Herrera, 46 and known for his frank and direct manner. Mexico are looking to at least equal their best World Cup achievements which was reaching the quarter-finals of the two events they host in 1970 and 1986. AGGRESSIVE PLAYER Herrera is unbeaten as Mexico's coach with four wins in six matches -- the two-legged playoff over New Zealand that Mexico won 9-3 on aggregate -- and four friendlies. Herrera made his debut in 1988, went on to win 14 caps as a full-back and played in the Mexico team that finished runners-up to Argentina at the 1993 Copa America in Ecuador. His coaching debut came with Atlante in 2002 and he has also taken charge of Monterrey, Veracruz and Tecos. Herrera's teams have reflected his impetuous and aggressive playing style and he missed out on the 1994 World Cup, north of the border in the United States, precisely because of that. After a qualifier against Honduras, in which Herrera was sent off for a foul, coach Miguel Mejia Baron dropped him. "I wasn't dropped because of what I did, it was because the coach didn't want to take me. Today, as a coach, I'm on the opposite side of the coin. "You've been involved in the whole process thinking you were going to the finals, then they take you off the truck. Today, without having been in the whole process, at the close they put you on the truck." Herrera now wants to stay in his job until the next World Cup in Russia in 2018 before taking a dream step to a European club. "After 2018 we'll think, if we do things properly, about going to Europe but for now we're focusing on the World Cup." (Writing by Rex Gowar in Buenos Aires; editing by Robert Woodward and Mike Collett)

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