It is almost as if time has stood still for Jorge Campos. Still at his fighting weight and with just a few small wrinkles on his brow, he only needs the famous multi-colour jersey to complete the illusion. He has also maintained his famous cheerfulness and wonderful philosophy on life that allows him to take the good with the bad and keep smiling.
Campos, currently Ricardo Lavolpe's assistant with the Mexico national side at the FIFA Confederations Cup Germany 2005, spoke to FIFAworldcup.com about this weekend's semi-final showdown with Argentina.
The former goalkeeper knows better than anyone the significance of this game for his country. Twelve years ago, he took part in an equally important meeting between the two sides: the final of the Copa America Ecuador 1993 a game Argentina won 2-1. Campos remembers it as if it were only yesterday.
"For us it was a special game the final of the Copa America," he said. "The first emotion you feel when you take part in a game like that is joy, simply because of the magnitude of the occasion. For us, we'd never had the chance to play in such an important tournament, let alone reach the final. It was beautiful."
Campos became a symbol of a new generation of Mexican players that came of age so spectacularly in Ecuador. For the first time in their history, the country had reached the final of a tournament outside the North, Central American and Caribbean Zone, and their runners-up spot marked the start of El Tri's renaissance at international level.
"Mexico had never been in the final of a major tournament before, and most the squad were only starting out on their international careers. From that point on, we realised we could get better and better and compete for tournaments like the Copa America and Confederations Cup," Campos said.
A quantum leap
Since that final in 1993, the outlook has changed considerably for Mexican football. El Tri lifted the FIFA Confederations Cup on home soil in 1999, and finished runners-up at the Copa America Colombia 2001. And that is without even mentioning their spectacular performances so far at Germany 2005.
"The truth is that Mexican football has come on in leaps and bounds in recent years. A new generation of players have come through and learned from the more experienced ones. Nowadays, it's not unusual to see Mexico in the semi-finals or final of a major competition. For example in this tournament, nobody expected us to win our group, yet we did it," said Campos proudly.
Campos then casts his mind back to that Copa America final in 1993 the last time the Albiceleste won a major trophy and tells us what he remembers about an Argentine side still fondly remembered by Mexican fans.
"In 1993, Argentina had a dream team. I will never forget Gabriel Batistuta because it was him that scored the two goals that sunk us," he laughed. "There was also Sergio Goycochea, who was a legendary keeper in Argentina, and many more. It really was a side of the highest quality."
All to play for
With the experience gained in that game and over 100 more matches at international level, Campos gives his analysis of next Sunday's semi-final between Mexico and Argentina. "It will be a very tough game for us. Argentina have the advantage that comes with having won so many titles at international level. Moreover, they have many fantastic players in their ranks, individuals who are cutting it at some of the leading clubs in Europe. This gives the side real presence.
"They are a very dangerous team, especially at this stage of a tournament. Having said that, Mexico have been performing very well and Ricardo Lavolpe has done wonders with the team. We have a very young side that is improving all the time, and they have what it takes to reach the final."
Winding down his interview with FIFAworldcup.com, Campos talked a little about himself. As a player he always seemed to be having a good time during games. Does he still enjoy it as much in his new role on the bench?
"Very much so. I decided to hang up my boots a long time ago, and even though many people tried to convince me otherwise, the moment to quit had arrived. If I were honest, though, I'd have to admit that I still miss playing. I do enjoy the coaching side of things, but not as much as taking part in a big semi-final or final. There's a lot of pressure on the bench, but I'm learning so much here. I know I'm still young and that one day I'll coach my own team. All of this will stand me in good stead."