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Does Mexico Have Its Next Golden Generation?

Strength and resiliency have been characteristics of Mexico’s youth teams. Last weekend was no different. Mexico's U-20 soccer team fought hard in the final of the CONCACAF Championship, winning against a tough Panama side in penalties. Mexico’s Men’s National Team struggles at times to live up to the expectations set by their passionate fan base, but it is a different story when it comes to the youth teams.

Youth teams over the years have made Mexico proud, and Mexico's U-20 National Football Team’s most recent win goes to show that there will be stiff competition in the foreseeable future for places in Miguel Herrera’s starting 11. At The18, we give credit where credit is due, and both Mexico and its youth teams deserve praise, because of they have consistently built great youth teams.

We will start with the win against Panama, but we will look into four other moments that show just how bright Mexico’s future could be.

1. 2015: Mexico U-20 national Team vs Panama: CONCACAF Championship Final

As stated before, strength and resiliency are characteristics of the whole team, but the player that most reflected these two qualities was Jose Gonzalez. The young goalkeeper from Mexico, currently playing at FC Dallas, showed these two qualities and a few others while clinching the gold for his team.

The first 90 minutes of the contest  finished 1 – 1, and after another 30 minutes of  nail-biting soccer, penalties finally ended the contest. Mexico converted all its penalty kicks, and it was up to Gonzalez to put a stop to Panama’s attempts. He came through, and blocked two of them.

The game ended in victory for the Mexicans, but both teams will get the chance to showcase their talent at the FIFA U-20 World Cup in New Zealand in 2015. Hopefully that tournament favors CONCACAF sides,  as Honduras and the United States have also booked their tickets.

Overall, this result shows that Mexico has talent in abundance, and that talented U-17 players are developing year-after-year in a consistent manner. Another key takeaway from this win is the importance of MLS sides investing in Latino youth players. Gonzalez is a homegrown player at FC Dallas, and he showed that Latino communities are a source of talent here in the United States.

2. 2005: Mexico U-17 National Team vs. Brazil: World Cup Win

If you ask any Mexico National Team fan when they felt the proudest, they will surely bring this moment up. This moment went down in Mexican soccer history as one of the greatest achievements by a Mexican side at the international level. How could you forget the moment Mexico’s U-17 side beat Brazil in the 2005 World Cup?

Championship wins are hard to come by at the international level for Mexico’s first-team. A World Cup trophy might still be 5 – 10 years away, but winning a youth World Cup is an accomplishment that would make any Mexican proud.

The team that took home the gold in 2005 became known as Mexico’s “golden generation.” The side boasted the likes of Giovani Dos Santos and the well-known Carlos Vela, with the latter winning the Adidas Golden Boot at the tournament.

The final of the tournament was hardly a contest. The Mexicans hit home a hat-trick of goals with no reply from the young Brazilians. Mexico’s 16 goals allowed it to finish the tournament as top scorers, with Vela scoring 5 to win the “Pichichi.”

3. 2011: Mexico U-17 National Team vs. Uruguay

Mexico’s U-17 World Cup tournament was incredibly memorable. Not only was the tournament hosted in Mexico, but the 2011 team showed incredible grit to live up to the pressures of being hometown favorites and clinch the big W.

“The key to this success was teamwork. We hope we’ll become an example for future generations to follow,” said Mexico’s captain at the time, reflecting on what it took to win the tournament.

The most memorable game of the tournament may not have been the final itself. Even though Mexico managed to win the final 2-0 against a determined Uruguay side, it was the semi-final game against Germany that really defined the young Mexicans.

The team was down 1-0 and managed to drag themselves back to win the game 2-1, with Mexico’s Julio Gomez sealing the win with an incredible bicycle kick. He had been taken out of the game earlier due to a head injury, but his resiliency and determination to help his side brought him back into the game. Good thing he did. His goal took them to the final against Uruguay. 

4. 2012: Mexico National Team Olympic Gold

Photo: xeudeportes | Twitter

We include Mexico’s 2012 Olympic gold win because, even though Mexico took older players like Oribe Peralta and Carlos Salcido to the tournament, every team had the option to field three players 23 or older. In the end, Mexico fielded a very young side, and it was this same side that beat Neymar’s Brazil in the tournament’s final.

Brazil was hoping to win the tournament. Especially because they knew it was one of the few tournaments they had never won. They were heavy favorites going in, with rising star Neymar leading the line and well-known players like Marcelo and Thiago Silva in defence, but the game turned out to be one of the greatest under-dog stories of the tournament.

Mexico beat the tournament’s heavy favorites in a 2-1 win, with Oribe Peralta scoring in the first 28 seconds of the game. This win was an incredible one for Mexico and once again, it goes to show that youth is on Mexico’s side. Hopefully it is also a premonition of things to come for Mexico.

5. 2013: Mexico U-17 National Team In The FIFA World Cup Final

Last, but not least, we include Mexico’s U-17 participation in the 2013 FIFA U-17 World Cup Final.

Even though Mexico did not win the tournament, their effort in 2013 demonstrates a remarkable consistency in their ability to reach the last stages of youth tournaments. Nigeria was the team to beat, hardly any side could take on the “Flying Eagles.” Nigeria won the tournament 3-0 against Mexico.

As the Mexican saying goes: “Ya merito” – Almost. Mexico almost had it, right?

The next edition of the FIFA U-17 World Cup will be held in 2015, hosted by Chile. Vamos Mexico!

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