It was back on 4 August 1999 when Mexico won their first FIFA title, downing Brazil in a FIFA Confederations Cup final played in front of a euphoric crowd at the Estadio Azteca. Celebrating their success, the El Tri players congregated jubilantly around the trophy keeper Jorge Campos had carefully set on pitch.
Among them was a fresh-faced 20-year-old by the name of Gerardo Torrado, who had spent just a few minutes on the field in that historic campaign but has since become a vital cog in the side and is still going strong 14 years later.
A veteran of two FIFA World Cups™, a Copa America runner-up and three times a CONCACAF Gold Cup winner since that heady day at the Azteca, the 34-year-old midfielder is about to embark on another FIFA Confederations Cup campaign with Mexico, a challenge he discussed in an exclusive interview with FIFA.com.
Torrado made his professional debut with Pumas UNAM in 1997, spending three seasons with the club before Spanish side Tenerife gave him the chance to fulfil his dream of playing in Europe. An utterly dependable performer in the midfield engine room, he became an ever-present for Mexico after pulling on the green jersey for the first time in the middle of 1999.
“It was big step forward in my career,” said the player on the eve of his third FIFA Confederations Cup. “I was just starting out as a professional, and the fact that the coach had faith in me and that we then won the title is something that had a big impact on my career. We showed the world that Mexico had a set-up to be proud of and could play good football and take on the very best.”
Mexico has achieved big things in the years since Torrado turned pro, twice winning the FIFA U-17 World Cup, claiming gold at the Men’s Olympic Football Tournament London 2012 and taking third place at the last FIFA U-20 World Cup in Colombia two years ago.
Reflecting on those recent triumphs, he said: “It just shows the amount of work that’s been done with the youth teams. It’s a sign that Mexico is pushing really hard to become a contender in the major tournaments.”
After Mexico missed out on the last Festival of Champions in South Africa four years ago, Torrado is delighted to be back in the competition in Brazil, where he will to bring all his midfield know-how to bear in a side that has developed a whole new mindset in recent years.
“We’ve got rid of that inferiority complex we once had,” he explained. “These days Mexican players know they can compete and they’ve got the belief and the technique to succeed.”
The Mexicans take on Italy in their first Group A match at the Maracana on Sunday. The last time the men in green played an international tournament match at the famous stadium was 63 years ago, in the Opening Match of the 1950 FIFA World Cup Brazil, when they were beaten 4-0 by the hosts. Having developed a fine blend of youth and experience, El Tri are confident of a better outcome this time and of pushing for a repeat of their 1999 success.
“It won’t be easy, but then the Confederations Cup never is,” said Torrado, who with 140 international appearances is the second-most capped player in the competition, behind Iker Casillas with 145. “You’re up against the best teams in the world and the competition is very stiff. All the same time, I think we’ll have some good games. I think Mexico will perform well and we’ll be looking to go as far as possible.”