Though Mexico’s bid for glory at the FIFA U-20 World Cup Germany 2010 came to a premature end with a 3-1 quarter-final defeat by Korea Republic in front of a bumper 20,000 crowd in Dresden, El Tri exited with their pride very much intact. Indeed, despite their disappointment in defeat, this crop of Las Aztecas’ starlets can take consolation in reaching the knockout stages of the U-20 showpiece for the first time in four appearances.
“We were the underdogs in our group but we showed our character out on the pitch. We never stopped trying to win our games, even when we were 3-0 down against the South Koreans. That’s our calling card,” said proud coach Roberto Medina.
“In the dressing room I congratulated them for their hard work, the effort they’ve put in and their commitment to the national team. This group of players has a bright future ahead and they’re opening doors in Mexican women’s football. They’re still very young and can achieve big things from now on.”
Widely expected to fall at the first hurdle, El Tri reached the last eight by finishing their Group C campaign unbeaten with two draws and a win, scoring five goals and conceding four in the process. Moreover, Renae Cuellar’s solitary strike in the 1-0 victory over England secured the North Americans’ second success in the history of the competition, following on from the 4-2 victory over Switzerland at Russia 2006.
Safe hands of Santiago
Just one of the players that epitomises Mexico’s will to win and fighting spirit is keeper Cecilia Santiago, who has made the No1 jersey her own at the age of just 15 years and nine months. “This is my first major tournament and I’m very pleased about how well we’ve done,” said the custodian, the youngest player to feature at Germany 2010.
“It’s a shame we missed out on the semi-finals but it’s been a great experience and one I’ll never forget. We’ve been involved in some very exciting games and taken on countries with totally different playing styles, and I can say honestly there are no easy teams. We prepared thoroughly for every match and played to win each time we took the field,” she added after the clash with Korea Republic.
Despite ending up with a record of seven goals conceded in four games, Santiago’s agility between the sticks was a vital factor in Mexico’s progress, particularly in the narrow group win over 2009 European U-19 champions England. She went on: “We’ll be back together again soon, ready to work hard and lay the groundwork for qualifying for the next World Cup.
“I’m certain that we’ll be back in this position again, battling it out to reach the semi-finals of a World Cup.” And on the evidence of Germany 2010, who would bet against them?