Taking only the last three games as evidence, Mexico's one goal conceded over that period should class them among the most miserly defences of the FIFA U-17 World Cup UAE 2013. Attentive fans in the Emirates and elsewhere will, however, point out that to reach the last eight, you must play four games...
That said, for all those involved with El Tri, it must be tempting to write off their opening group match altogether, when Mexico were hammered 6-1 by Nigeria in the worst defeat ever inflicted on a defending champion. “Unfortunately we made a lot of mistakes that contributed to that result,” said goalkeeper Raul Gudino to FIFA.com. “But since then the team has worked even harder and focused even more. Our key players have really taken responsibility and that’s given us a boost. We’re all very motivated.”
What is more, Mexico’s results since that opening-day collapse have been impressive, with Gudino and co claiming 3-1, 1-0 and 2-0 wins against Iraq, Sweden and Italy respectively. Awaiting them now in the quarter-finals are Brazil, whose 18-goal tally is a tournament high. “It’s actually a motivation that Brazil are so strong in front of goal. We have to stop them and we’ll be looking to do that as a team,” said Gudino.
The South Americans have the tournament’s six-goal top scorer Boschilla in their ranks, but Gudino denied Mexico would be giving him special treatment, particularly since his colleagues Nathan and Mosquito have both weighed in with four strikes apiece. “We’ve watched a few videos of how they operate in attack, but we have to concentrate on our own game and can’t allow ourselves to be distracted by their quality. I have to do my job,” said the 17-year-old custodian.
Title defence incentive
Only one country - Brazil in 1997 and 1999 - have successfully won consecutive U-17 World Cups, but Gudino is set on changing that statistic. “It’s an added motivation for us that we’re defending champions. Every squad has a new crop of players and so there’s no extra pressure on us. We want to be world champions as much as everybody else, and our goal is to lift the trophy.”
Mexico versus Brazil is certainly one of football’s classic fixtures. Their first meeting came way back at the 1950 FIFA World Cup™, a game which then-hosts Brazil won 4-0. They have locked horns almost 40 times since, with three of those coming at the U-17 World Cup
In 1985, Brazil prevailed by a 2-0 scoreline, but Mexico have come out on top in the last two encounters. In the final of the 2005 edition, El Tri won out 3-0, in a game which current senior stars Giovani dos Santos, Carlos Vela (both Mexico) and Marcelo (Brazil) all started. Meanwhile, even with Neymar in their side, A Seleção fell to a 1-0 group-stage defeat in 2009.
Now, for the second time in UAE, it is all or nothing for Gudino and his mates as they take to the field in the last eight. Faced with keeping the tournament’s best attack at bay on Friday 1 November, can the custodian rise to the challenge? “I consider myself a confident goalkeeper and I have the physical requirements for it too," he said. "I have no set way of keeping goal, I just try to learn things from others so I can eventually become the best keeper in the world. That’s my dream and I believe I can achieve it.”
Nor can we finish without mentioning Gudino’s nickname is 'The Octopus', an apt moniker for a goalkeeper. And while against Nathan, Boschilla and the rest of the South American danger-men an extra limb or two would undoubtedly be handy, there is every chance his two long arms, and legs, will be enough to get the job done.