It is not easy to explain Mexico’s odyssey in the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup, given that the Tricolor beach boys went from heroes to zeros in the space of a year. At Rio de Janeiro 2007, in their debut outing at beach soccer’s main event, a youthful Azteca team made an immediate splash by going all the way to the final, before coming a cropper against the unstoppable hosts Brazil. A year later in Marseille, arriving as top dogs having also won their first CONCACAF crown, the Mexicans were unable to make it out of their opening-round group, albeit one that included heavyweights Spain and Brazil.
After failing to qualify in 2009, Los Aztecas return to beach soccer’s global showpiece in Ravenna with their second CONCACAF title under their belt. Thanks mainly to Miguel Estrada’s authoritative displays between the sticks and a steady supply of goals from front pairing Antonio Barbosa and Morgan Plata, Ramon Raya’s men demonstrated in qualifying that they have put some cohesion and confidence back into their play. As in the past, the Mexico coach intends to work on his squad’s motivation, as well as honing tactical and technical aspects. The objective is to emulate their achievements at Rio 2007, even if El Tri can no longer exploit the element of surprise.
Ramon Raya knows that continuity is the key to becoming one of the top teams in the discipline. The crux is to hit the ground running and avoid slip-ups in the group stage, where some formidable opponents await them, then take each match as it comes. Despite Mexico not being one of the hot favourites for the title, the pressure will be on because this team knows it has the wherewithal to excel on any stage.
Miguel Estrada, Antonio Barbosa, Ricardo Villalobos, Morgan Plata
The Mexicans’ success was built on a cast-iron defence, with only ten goals conceded compared to 15 scored. The North Americans notched four victories, including one on penalties, and recorded just one defeat, on penalties against arch-rivals El Salvador.
The numbers game
4 - The goals scored in the final of the 2011 CONCACAF qualifying tournament by Mexican goleador Antonio Barbosa in a rematch against the Salvadoreans. Despite starting the match on the bench, Barbosa turned the game on its head with his four-goal salvo.