After Recent Disappointments, El Tri Need A Strong Showing In The Olympics
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The Mexico national team has become, in recent years, a fertile ground for European scouts to find promising talent. Of course, Chicharito is the most famous example, but the likes of Hector Herrera, Jesus "Tecatito" Corona, Miguel Layun, Andres Guardado and Hector Moreno have not only found success, but have become integral to their respective clubs.
Many people give credit to the rise of Chicharito for shining the spotlight on Liga MX as a spot for promising talent, but in reality, more credit should be given to the sustained success of the Mexican youth.
The win over Brazil in the 2012 Olympics in London may have seemed to be an upset, but in fact, the core of that team had been generating a buzz long before that. A team featuring Giovani Dos Santos and Hector Moreno won the 2005 U-17 World Cup, which was followed by another victory in the 2011 edition, and a third-placed finish in the U-20 World Cup that year.
The core of that U-20 team then went on to win the Toulon tournament in 2012, before winning gold at that summer's Olympics.
Since that period of success, things have become a bit stagnant however. Liga MX has come under a lot of criticism for importing players rather than developing youth, and that lack of focus on youth has shown in the national team.
The 2013 U-20 World Cup saw Mexico barely escape the group. They lost to Greece and Paraguay before a 4-1 thumping of Mali enabled them to go through in third place, where they were promptly knocked out by Spain.
The 2015 U-20 World Cup was even worse, as Mexico couldn't even get out of the group, despite having such talented players as Hirving Lozano, Orbelin Pineda and Erick Gutierrez. Then, the Toulon tournament of 2016 ended with Mexico bowing out after just one solitary victory over group punching-bags Bulgaria.
Nobody is doubting that the 2016 Mexico Olympic squad is talented. Not at all. The rise of Pachuca's youthful stars couldn't have come at a better time for Mexico.
However, the championship squad of 2012 seemed to have momentum on its side in a way that this team doesn't. It was the successful pinnacle of many of Mexico's best products, and that momentum even seemed to extend into the senior squad at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. The 2016 generation is certainly more naturally talented, but are they as balanced? Are they ready mentally to take on the challenge?
The struggles of the youth side in recent tournaments is, at best, a sign that this is a national program in transition, and at worst, a sign that there are severe endemic problems within the Mexican setup.
Either way, the Mexico team's performance in Rio will be under a lot of scrutiny, especially after El Tri's humiliating exit in the Copa America Centenario. Whether they succeed or not could dictate the direction of Mexican soccer for years to come.
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