Now that the football world has had time to reflect on what was a memorable FIFA World Cup™ in Brazil, collective attention turns to the FIFA U-20 Women's World Cup in Canada, and ultimately, next year's FIFA Women's World Cup™.
To preview both tournaments, FIFA.com caught up with Mexico midfielder Teresa Noyola, who played for USA at the U-20 Women's World Cup Germany 2010 and then for the Mexican national team a year later at the Women's World Cup. She plays her club football for Houston Dash in the National Women's Soccer League (NWSL) and has scored three goals in ten matches in their inaugural season.
Familiar with both the US and Mexico national teams, Noyola believes the upcoming CONCACAF Women's World Cup qualifiers in October will showcase a higher standard than ever before.
"I think there's going to be an increase in level of play," Noyola told FIFA.com. "With the NWSL there's been some CONCACAF players playing in the league, including a few with the Mexican national team. I think that it will improve from having these players play in the NWSL. It's definitely an interesting mix of countries."
Mexico will be looking to first qualify for the Women's World Cup, and then improve on their 2011 display when they were knocked out of the group stage after draws with England and New Zealand, and a 4-0 loss to eventual winners Japan.
"We definitely expect to qualify," Noyola said. "We're competitive with Canada as we were able to draw with them 1-1 back in January at BC Place [in Vancouver]. I think that was a good indicator of where we're at. We've been rebuilding a little bit. We struggled against the US and since then it's been a rebuilding for us. Once we get together and start preparing ourselves, there's a lot of talent. It's just a matter of putting it together and getting that team chemistry right."
Noyola wants the team to look at the turnaround shown by the men's national team at the World Cup in Brazil as an inspiration for El Tricolor as they head into a qualifying campaign of their own.
"I think confidence is a big thing for us," Noyola said. "I think when we're playing with confidence we're at our best. You saw from the men's team how far they came from the World Cup qualifying all the way to the tournament and it looked like two completely different teams. It was just the player's confidence. I think for us, that's the biggest thing. When we're confident, we can compete with a lot of the best teams."
U-20 finals launch careers
Noyola will be hoping to play in her second World Cup next year, but it was the U-20 World Cup that set the stage for her career. There will be 336 players at next month's tournament in Canada hoping to launch their football careers in the same way Noyola kickstarted her own a few years ago.
"It just gave me a taste of what I wanted to do and what I was truly passionate about," she said. "Whichever national team you play for, it doesn't matter. You feel that passion. When I was with the USA in Germany, I knew what I wanted to do. I wanted to be out there on the field. When I started playing for Mexico I felt it even more. In the full team, I realised this is what I want. I think it sets the stage for the full team."
For any player, the decision to swap national teams is a difficult one, but for Noyola, it was a matter of making the most of an opportunity. "I was 20 and I just played for the US in the U-20 World Cup and the opportunity was there to play for Mexico. I wasn't given that type of opportunity with the US full national team, so it's taking the opportunity that's there.
"I was born in Mexico, so it's been a nice opportunity to reconnect with that part of me. From a soccer perspective, the opportunity was there to play with Mexico and it wasn't there with the US, and I took full advantage."
Noyola will be looking to continue her successful time with the Dash before donning the green of Mexico in October ahead of another World Cup journey. When the opportunity comes, she will make the most of it, just as she has done before.