Pineda passionate, despite split loyalties
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There were, in all probability, few families that lived through the USA’s recent 1-0 friendly win over Mexico at the Azteca with more intensity than the Pineda household, where a certain brother and sister had very different feelings about the result.

The brother in question is Victor Pineda, one of MLS side Chicago Fire’s brightest prospects and a member of the USA’s U-18 side, while his sister is Cynthia, currently turning out in the No10 shirt for Mexico at the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup Azerbaijan 2012.

Born to an American mother and a Mexican father, the siblings can both fulfil roles as creative midfielders or deep-lying forwards and share the same passion for football, even if they have chosen to represent different countries.

Indeed, Cynthia’s love for the game was nurtured by her brother, as she explained to “It all goes back to when I played football as a little girl with him. I’ve been playing the game ever since.”

Unlike Victor, however, she pledged her allegiance to the country of her father’s birth: “They invited me to join the team in January this year and give it a try. And I enjoyed it a lot. The atmosphere was great and so were the players and the coach, and I’ve been part of the set-up ever since.”

It’s a dream come true to be playing in a World Cup because it’s something I’ve wanted to experience since I was a little girl.
Cynthia Pineda, Mexico midfielder

As to where her future lies, she has little doubt: “I like this team a lot and even if my brother plays for the United States, I’m going to carry on with El Tri. I’ve got that very clear in my mind.”

So far, her choice seems to have been the right one. After finishing third in the CONCACAF U-17 Championship, the Mexicans are among the 16 teams vying for the world title at Azerbaijan, with Cynthia delighted to have made the journey.

The ultimate test
“It’s a dream come true to be playing in a World Cup because it’s something I’ve wanted to experience since I was a little girl,” she said. “It means a lot to me to be here enjoying all this, and I hope we can go far.”

Those hopes were dented on Wednesday when a late Byanca goal condemned the Mexicans to a 1-0 defeat to Brazil, a result that left them tied on three points with their conquerors and needing to take something from their final game against tournament favourites Japan.

“Obviously the Brazil match didn’t go the way we wanted,” she said, the disappointment still evident in her voice. “We have to change a few things around for the next game.”

Mexico’s three points came from their opening match against New Zealand, a narrow 1-0 win that would have been much more emphatic had it not been for a brave performance from Kiwi keeper Lily Alfeld.

Reflecting on their two performances so far, Pineda said: “We failed to make the game safe against New Zealand and take our chances, whereas against Brazil we needed to keep more of the ball and create more danger. If we’re going to beat Japan, we need to up our game both in front of goal and in terms of keeping possession.”

The Mexicans face no easy task against the Little Nadeshiko, but will not be lacking in motivation. On their only previous appearance in the competition, at Trinidad and Tobago 2010, they went out in the group phase, and the chance to atone for that early exit and make history in Azerbaijan is spurring Pineda and her team-mates on.

“We have the chance to do it, and we need to give it all we’ve got in this game,” she said, finishing on a defiant note.