After several unremarkable outings in the first few tournaments, Mexico have built a solid reputation for themselves at the FIFA U-17 World Cup in recent times. Los Tricolores wrote their name into the history books by romping to the world title in Peru in 2005, a victory inspired by the brilliant performances of Giovani dos Santos and Carlos Vela. Following their failure to qualify two years later, a useful Mexican side bounced back at Nigeria 2009 to reach the Round of 16, only to fall short in a dramatic match against Korea Republic, first conceding an equaliser in stoppage time and then losing out on penalties.
As hosts, the Mexicans qualified automatically for the event, but that has not prevented coach Raul Gutierrez – a former Mexican international – from preparing his youthful charges in the most meticulous fashion. Consequently, the Latin American team played warm-up matches against CONCACAF sides as well as professional clubs, and even claimed second place in a tournament involving South American opposition in Chile.
El Tri’s young players are well aware of the important responsibility that rests on their shoulders. Somewhat understandably, almost every U-17 team in Mexico is compared to the ‘Golden Generation’ that triumphed at Peru 2005, and expectations are even greater now that the tournament is being held on home soil. Gutierrez acknowledges the pressure, but does not see it as harmful to his team’s ambitions. “Our fans know what it means to succeed at this level. This leads to total commitment on our part. We’re dreaming of becoming champions, and we won’t stop until we achieve that goal,” he explained prior to the competition.