© LOC/MexSport

Mexico were absent at Thailand 2004, but have participated in the other five previous editions of the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup and, like many of El Tri’s youth sides in recent years, they have progressively improved. Having been knocked out in the group stages in the first three editions, Mexico made it to the quarter-finals in Germany 2010 and Japan 2012. And in the latter, El Tri came close to a place in the last four as they lost out to a single strike in a hard-fought encounter with Nigeria, which was only decided after extra time.

As so often in the past, USA convincingly came out on top in the CONCACAF Women’s U-20 Championship, which was played in the Cayman Islands. USA, with three World Cup wins from a possible six, are one of the strongest nations in the age group, as they demonstrated once again by denying Mexico with a resounding 4-0 win in the regional final.

Nevertheless, Mexico’s performance in the competition was also impressive. With 19 goals scored and only one conceded, El Tri sailed through the group stages and subsequently sealed their ticket to Canada 2014 by beating Costa Rica in the semi-final. Las Ticas took the lead, but Mexico patiently played their way into the game and ended up winning thanks to goals from Zermeno, Ibarra and Valadez, securing passage to the World Cup and also a place in the decider.

“We have come through the group stages in the last two World Cups, so that has to be our objective,” said coach Christopher Cuellar after the semi-final success. “We have to improve as a team and we’ll see what our chances are.”

Mexico’s main aims will be to keep racking up victories and to grow even stronger on the international scene. With a talented group of players and a dynamic squad, El Tri will hope to take advantage of the predatory instincts of Tanya Samarzich, their leading scorer with six strikes in the CONCACAF competition, and the attacking prowess which saw them record more shots on goal (113) than anyone else, including USA (93), during the regional tournament.