“It’s the end of a dream, one we believed in,” said a bereft Juan Carlos Chavez as his Mexico side crashed out of the FIFA U-20 World Cup Colombia 2011 on Wednesday. Their hopes of reaching a second final in the competition, some 34 years after their first at the inaugural tournament in 1977, evaporated when they were beaten 2-0 by Brazil in Pereira.
The CONCACAF giants can take plenty of pride from their tournament as a whole and from their performance in the semi-final, during the first half of which they put the Brazilians under severe pressure with some sparkling football.
Yet, as playmaker Ulises Davila was left to rue afterwards, the Mexicans failed to convert their classy build-up play into the most important commodity in football: goals.
“We created some good chances against the Brazilians but we just couldn’t put the ball away,” he lamented. “Football’s a simple game and if you want to win, you have to score goals. That’s what they did and that’s why they’re on their way to the final.”
In continuing to assess the reasons behind Mexico’s elimination, Davila also paid tribute to the four-time competition winners: “I would have liked to have seen more of the ball, but the Brazilians were very strong in defence and I couldn’t get control of it," he told FIFA.com. "That’s the way things are, though, and sometimes you have to sacrifice yourself for the team. We did everything we could and we kept our shape, but they held on to the ball well and imposed their game. They were very worthy opponents.”
Mexico also deserve praise for their Colombian campaign, the highlight of which was the impressive quarter-final display against the hosts, a win founded on their ability to negate the opposition. Yet, for the time being at least, Davila and his team-mates are taking little satisfaction from that showing, having journeyed here for the title only to come up short.
“We’re devastated,” he admitted. “Our goal was to reach the final and we didn’t make it. That’s why there wasn’t exactly a party atmosphere in the dressing room. We were so excited about the prospect of playing the final on Saturday and fighting for the title. All we can do now, though, is recharge the batteries and focus on third place.”
And as coach Chavez explained, he will be doing everything he can to secure that bronze medal: “My players are sad and there were tears in their eyes. But I told them that this isn’t over and that there’s a third place to go for against France, which is worth fighting for.”
“It won’t be easy to get our focus back, but we came here to win something and that’s what we’re going to try to do,” added Davila, sounding a similarly defiant note. “We’ve got the match for third place coming up and it’s not the same to finish as one of the top three teams in the world than to leave empty-handed.”
Aside from Saturday’s match, the Mexicans still have plenty to look forward to, including the forthcoming Pan-American Games, where they will fight it out for a place at the Men’s Olympic Football Tournament London 2012.
The Guadalajara star is hoping to be in the UK next year but also has his sights set on other goals. “I want to play more for my club and, who knows, join a big European side in the future,” he said, looking forward. “And then I’d like to break into the national team in time for the 2014 World Cup.”
Given his stylish displays over the last couple of weeks, Brazil 2014 looks a realistic goal for Davila. And though he is not the type to hold grudges, the biggest football show on Earth could yet give him the opportunity to avenge the end of his long-cherished Colombian dream.