Mexico Olympic Soccer Team: 5 Reasons They Can Stun Brazil & Team GB to Win Gold
Mexico enter the Olympic soccer tournament as darkhorses to claim gold.
They are not being mentioned as immediate favourites, with El Tricolor ranked fifth favourite behind Brazil, Spain, Uruguay and Great Britain.
La Verde are a fascinating side who can provide a great deal of entertainment in England over the coming weeks and while they may not be expected to take a medal by the bookmakers, Luis Fernando Tena will know that expectations at home are to the contrary.
I think El Tri should be considered stronger candidates for the gold medal than they are and I'll explain why in the following slides.
Motivation to Win First Ever Medal at the Olympics
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Mexico have never won a medal at the Olympics, which should provide great motivation to the current side.
Their best finish came in 1968, with home advantage in Mexico City, when El Tri finished fourth.
Mexico have a fantastic record in international youth football in recent years. La Verde finished third in the under-20 World Cup in Colombia last year, but have succeeded in other youth tournaments.
Mexico won the prestigious Toulon tournament this year, thrashing Turkey under-20 in the final, 3-0. El Tricolor have also claimed two of the last four editions of the under-17 World Cup, including the latest edition in 2011.
All of this suggests Mexico are on the verge of translating their youth football success to senior level, with the Olympics being the perfect bridge between the two. It would be a spectacular way to break that medal duck by claiming gold in London.
Fully Fit Squad Entering Opening Match
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Mexico coach Luis Fernando Tena, who is taking the under-23 side from senior coach José Manuel de la Torre, has the comfort of knowing that his squad is fully fit days before the tournament started.
The squad had several problems leading up to their opening fixture with South Korea on Thursday.
Hiram Mier, Oribe Peralta, Javier Aquino, Nestor Vidrio and Néstor Araujo all missed several sessions of training in the weeks building up to the Olympics, but ESPN reported that the entire squad have been training as normal since arriving at their training camp in Newcastle.
Competitive Tournament Experience
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Mexico under-23 have some experience at tournament level as a group, unlike some of the make-shift squads put together specifically for the Olympics.
There appears to have been some long-term planning on the part of the FMF, who prepared for the Olympics by sending an under-22 squad to play in the 2011 Copa América.
Plans were sent in to disarray when eight players were sent home from Argentina after being embroiled in a prostitute scandal. The tournament did not go well either, finishing bottom of Group C...pointless.
There has been a benefit from this process though, as nine players carry the experience of the Copa America through to the Olympics, something which many of their competitors do not have.
Hiram Mier, Darvin Chávez, Diego Reyes, Miguel Ponce, Néstor Araujo, Javier Aquini, Jorge Enríquez, Oribe Peralta and Giovani Dos Santos are able to provide 230 caps of international experience, a valuable commodity.
Kind Group and Route to the Final
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Mexico have been gifted an easy group to begin their pursuit of gold at the London Olympics.
They will have to negotiate South Korea, Gabon and Switzerland, which should not be much trouble for a side that not only possesses so much raw talent, like many sides at London 2012, but also the experience to cope with the pressure of tournament football.
Upon qualifying from the group, the route to the final is the easier of the two halves as well. Finishing top of the group will mean that El Tri avoid Brazil until the final. With Uruguay appearing to be favourites to top Group A, the quarterfinal should be against Team GB, Senegal or the UAE, who would all be considered underdogs in any eventual meeting.
A semifinal will likely put La Verde up against Spain, who despite their talent, will not be able to overwhelm Mexico with their possession like they do with the majority of their other opponents. Luis Fernando Tena, along with much of Mexican football in general, encourages a similar tiki-taka style with possession the key to their tactics.
Should Mexico reach the final, their style should match up nicely with likely opponents Brazil, as Mano Menezes is in the midst of shifting the Seleção towards a more possession-based, progress style of football. Despite a greater talent pool available for the Olympics, Mexico will have their tactics more finely tuned and practiced than this new generation of Brazilians.
Less Stars, More of a Team
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Mexico enter the Olympics without several players, who could have potentially added more quality to the squad. Several players were summoned, but have not been able to link up with the squad for a multitude of reasons.
Carlos Vela refused to participate while he was in the process of negotiating the most crucial transfer of his career, as the former Arsenal striker finalised a permanent transfer to Real Sociedad, while Manchester United refused a request for Javier Hernández to be one of the over-age players.
Barcelona starlet Jonathan Dos Santos also declined an invitation, potentially harming his future endeavours with the Mexican national team, in order to stake a claim for a place in the Barcelona first team on their preseason tour.
This should not hinder La Verde too much though, as the squad is all based domestically, with the exception of Tottenham's Giovani Dos Santos, which should mean an excellent chemistry in the side. Overage players have also been selected intelligently, as they are familiar with the younger players from their club football.
The captain is one of those, the former Fulham defender Carlos Salcido returned to the Liga MX one season ago, on loan at Tigres, who made the move permanent this summer. The 32-year-old can offer a wealth of experience with 106 international appearances for Mexico.
The other two over-age players are goalkeeper José de Jesús Corona (31) and striker Oribe Peralta (28), who have spent their entire club careers in Mexico.
The squad may have benefited from the extra quality from those mentioned above, but Luis Fernando Tena will have no regrets, the current group seem to have developed a closer bond as a result.
Look out for Mexico to make some noise in the battle for gold at London 2012.