There's no doubting that Mexico's 2-1 loss to the Netherlands in the round of 16 Sunday will sting for quite some time. But when the dust settles and the El Tri fans get over the heartbreaking defeat, they'll realize that the future is bright.
For much of their World Cup clash against the Dutch, it looked like the Mexicans were about to be through. Giovani dos Santos' strike early in the second half put El Tri in front, and suffocating defense was sniffing out any Dutch attack.
Of course, the rest is history. Wesley Sneijder ripped home the equalizer in the 87th minute, then a controversial penalty called on Rafael Marquez for contesting Arjen Robben allowed the Dutch to net the winner.
ESPN FC captured Mexican head coach Miguel Herrera's response:
There couldn't be a more heartbreaking way to go out for El Tri. After playing their hearts out to get through to the knockout stage with low expectations entering Brazil, they were minutes away from knocking off the 2010 finalists—then it all disappeared.
ESPN's Ian Darke summed up the performance best:
Looked highly debatable pen for Dutch winner. More than performance deserved. Worst way for Mexico to go out. Lasting pain.— Ian Darke (@IanDarke) June 29, 2014
What's more, the captain, Marquez—whose penalty proved to be the difference—is 35 and very likely on his last World Cup voyage.
But in every other direction that Mexico look as they gear toward the future, there's nothing but promise.
Mexico had the talent and experience necessary to make a deep run this year, but for the most part, their best players are still entering their prime years. Giovani dos Santos is 25, Javier "Chicharito" Hernandez is 26 and most of the starting XI will be playing at a high level four years from now.
Plus, it's been all too forgotten that Carlos Vela hasn't even been in the fold. The 25-year-old is arguably El Tri's best player, showing out at the club level for Real Sociedad out on the wing.
ESPN FC's Tom Marshall sees Vela as a key piece moving forward:
Don't forget arguably #Mex's best player Carlos Vela wasn't involved. Confusing situation with him. Be great to get him committed to El Tri.— Tom Marshall (@mexicoworldcup) June 29, 2014
Another reason to be excited is that star forward Chicharito wasn't even in form this year. He was taken out of the starting XI entering Brazil and never made his way back into it.
But he did come off the bench and stayed confident, scoring a goal in Mexico's win over Croatia in the group stage. If he can rebound at the club level, he'll be even more of a force in the future and return to his old form.
Then there's Hector Herrera. The 24-year-old didn't have high expectations entering the World Cup, but he was one of El Tri's best players at times.
Marshall thinks Herrera could take off in the coming years—a good sign for the future:
Hector Herrera superb for #Mex this World Cup. Looks like he'll become an elite midfielder in coming years. Major positive.— Tom Marshall (@mexicoworldcup) June 29, 2014
For all of the talented youngsters that Mexico have in the midfield and the attack, their best player is in goal—they learned that much in Brazil. Guillermo Ochoa not only made himself some money with his performance, but the 28-year-old also proved that El Tri have a stopper in net for the coming years.
The biggest plus that this side has moving forward is who is leading them. Miguel Herrera has been outstanding in Brazil, not just with his energy and enthusiasm but also tactical moves that helped him get the most out of El Tri.
His spirit, as Bleacher Report UK noted, is something that Mexican fans cling to:
Few expected Mexico to get as far as they did in Brazil. Even though it was just the round of 16, they surprised by not just getting out of Group A, but also getting a result in every match—even the draw against Brazil.
Sure, El Tri feel like they should still be playing and that they got cheated out of a chance to go to extra time. Sure, that feeling will last for a while, considering this is the World Cup.
But with a leader like Herrera, experienced players who believe in him and the pain of this defeat, they can be led out of these rough waters heading into the future.