Hard act to follow for Mexico
© AFP

As they finalise their preparations for this month's FIFA U-17 World Cup in Nigeria, Mexico's young squad are only too aware of the responsibility that has been placed on their shoulders. With memories of the ‘Golden Generation's' heroics at Peru 2005 still fresh in Mexican minds, it is inevitable the current crop will find themselves compared to Carlos Vela, Giovani Dos Santos, Efrain Juarez and the rest of that world title-winning side.

However, judging by the team's performance at the CONCACAF qualifying tournament last April, they look well capable of following in the footsteps of their illustrious predecessors. Moreover, after preparing meticulously for the African showdown and making a few key changes to the squad that secured qualification, coach Jose Luis Gonzalez China looks to have assembled a group of players that are relishing the challenge.

Guzman, more than a name
Last Sunday the Mexican squad flew to the Spanish city of Alicante, where they are scheduled to play three friendly games before embarking for Nigeria. As they waved goodbye to friends and supporters and prepared to fly their nation's flag in west Africa, the enthusiasm and excitement of the players was palpable.

One noticeable absentee from the group was that of Martin Galvan, the outstanding player of the qualification tournament. The young striker was later dropped by the coach for disciplinary reasons and had his place assigned to another exciting prospect, whose name will be very familiar to fans of Mexican football.

I've been dreaming about playing for my country since I was a kid and, now that my chance has come, I want to do well.
Bryan Leyva, Mexico midfielder.

The tyro in question is Daniel Guzman, whose father of the same name was a highly regarded striker in the 1980s and currently coaches Tigres of Monterrey. National coach Gonzalez China showed his regard for the teenager recently, saying: "We were considering him for selection from the start, but then he got injured. Now, though, he's fully recovered and playing very well. He's becoming a better player all the time and has every chance of being a key member of the team."

Bryan Leyva, Mexican through and through
The second new man in the squad is Bryan Leyva, whose route to an international call-up was more circuitous. Born in Chihuahua, he emigrated at a very young age to the USA, where he now plays with MLS side Dallas FC. Despite being away from his homeland, the midfielder never stopped dreaming of pulling on the famous green jersey.

"I'm thrilled and really motivated - ready for whatever comes our way," he said before departing for Spain. "I've been dreaming about playing for my country since I was a kid and, now that my chance has come, I want to do well. I feel Mexican and I want to represent Mexico," he added proudly.

Gonzalez China also had something to say about this creative midfielder. "Bryan has been doing some very interesting things on the pitch and he was with us in training earlier in the year. He's a very talented lad and I'm convinced he'll show that in Nigeria."

Before heading off for their African adventure, the squad were reminded they carried the hopes of the entire nation by none other than Mexican president, Felipe Calderon. A passionate sports fan, the head of state offered words of support and advice to the players: "The key is to have a clear vision and be focused on winning. It's about being sure of what you're doing. Mexico has already won a World Cup in this category so why shouldn't it win another. Go out there with a winning mentality."

And so it was with pride and determination that the young Tricolores embarked on their quest to bring another world title back to Mexico. And who is to say they won't be equal to the task in Nigeria and usher in the next ‘golden generation'.