The road to Portugal
Mexico were in imperious form at the CONCACAF Beach Soccer Championship, where six straight wins secured them a third continental crown. After free-scoring victories over Turks and Caicos Islands (8-3) and Guadalupe (8-1), El Tri topped their group with a business-like win over an up-and-coming Trinidad and Tobago side (4-0). And while quarter-final opponents Guatemala were also brushed aside (5-2), defending champions USA pushed them all the way before finally succumbing 4-3 in a thrilling semi-final. With a berth in Espinho then in the bag, Mexico finished the job in style with a 4-0 defeat of Costa Rica in the decider.
Strengths and style
El Tri certainly had plenty of attacking options, as they showed in finishing as the tournament’s third-leading scorers (33 goals) even without any players in the competition’s top-ten scorers’ chart. Indeed, their leading marksman, wide-player Ramon Maldonado, only racked up seven goals, although his overall contribution earned him the competition’s Best Player award. Ramon Raya’s charges were no less impressive at the back, shipping just nine goals to boast the tournament’s meanest defence. Unsurprisingly, their No1 Miguel Estrada, a three-time participant at the Beach Soccer World Cup, picked up the Best Goalkeeper award. There were also standout performances by veteran Francisco Cati (defender) and his younger team-mates David Gonzalez (wide-player) and Diego Rodriguez (pivot).
FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup record
Since Raya’s appointment as head coach, Mexico have become a force to be reckoned with on sand. During his first Beach Soccer World Cup in charge, at Brazil 2007, El Tri caused a major upset by finishing runners-up – still their best finish at the event. The coach also took his charges to Marseille 2008, where they crashed out in the group phase, and Ravenna 2011, where they lost to eventual champions Russia in the quarter-finals.