Mexico Youth Struggle In Toulon, But Olympic Hopes Are Still Bright
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The U-23 Mexico youth national team endured a disappointing campaign in the Toulon World Youth Festival as they slumped to a fourth-placed finish behind Mali, Czech Republic and group winners, France. They managed a solitary win against bottom of the table Bulgaria, but their overall performance does not inspire hope for the upcoming Olympics in Rio this summer.
Mexico are the defending Olympic champions, having won gold in 2012 at the expense of Brazil. They also happened to win the Toulon tournament that year on the back of strong performances from Marco Fabian — who was named top goalscorer — and Hector Herrera — who was awarded player of the tournament.
If that case is to serve as any sort of guide, then Mexico's poor performance in Toulon could be a bad omen for their Olympic hopes. Granted, they will have three over-23 players to work with, but it doesn't appear, on the basis of this tournament, as if the squad is strong enough to compete. The 2012 team boasted some serious talent in Marco Fabian, Hector Herrera, Giovani Dos Santos and Raul Jimenez, but it's hard to see those types of players in this Mexico lineup.
Queretaro attacker Carlos Fierro and Atlas midfielder Arturo Gonzalez impressed, but the team looks bereft of quality at the back as they conceded eight goals, the most of any team in their group. Making matters worse, they also lost their two friendlies in March before the Toulon tournament, 2-1 to Japan and 4-0 to Portugal.
However, poor performances aside, it's not all doom and gloom for El Tri fans. Because the timing of the Toulon tournament coincides with the Clausura finals, there are some big names missing from the youth squad that turned out in France, thanks in part to Pachuca's involvement in the finals.
Erick Gutierrez, Victor Guzman, Rodolfo Pizarro and Hirving Lozano all turned out for Pachuca in their game against Monterrey on Thursday, they are all Olympic-eligible and they are widely tipped to be some of the future stars of El Tri. There are also the conspicious absences of Jesus "Tecatito" Corona, Jurgen Damm, Henry Martin, Orbelin Pineda and Carlos Salcedo, who would have made a huge difference had they been available.
While Toulon in 2012 was a vision of things to come for Mexico, perhaps it is not a good representation this time around. There are still quite a few concerns defensively in this squad, but there is plenty of bright attacking talent that will be unleashed in Rio come August.
The squad in Toulon was patched together somewhat haphazardly because of multiple missing players, thanks to Pachuca's involvement in the Clausera finals and Mexico's involvement in the upcoming Copa America Centenario.
Toulon may have been a disappointment, but this year, it doesn't really feel like El Tri fans should have anything to worry about.
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