Green is the colour for Rangel
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It is a busy time for Mexico, with El Tri’s various national teams battling on a number of fronts. The men’s senior team concluded the CONCACAF Gold Cup with victory on Saturday evening, the U-22 side are already in Argentina for the 2011 Copa America, which begins on Friday, and the U-17s are busy hosting the FIFA World Cup for their age group, having reached the second round with a perfect group record.

And, not to be outdone, the women’s senior team are also braced for action, with an opening match at the FIFA Women’s World Cup Germany 2011™ to come on Monday against England.

One of the girls lining up for Las Tricolores in Germany is teenage midfielder Lydia Nayeli Rangel, who is delighted to see Mexican football in such rude health. “This is a great time for football in Mexico and we have to capitalise on it,” she says. “We’re following and supporting all our colleagues and we can’t wait to get going too.”

It’s a unique atmosphere [in Germany], so unique you can’t put it into words.
Mexico midfielder Lydia Nayeli Rangel

Twelve months ago, the Tigres player was captaining the U-20 team at Germany 2011, where they made it all the way to the quarter-finals. “It was a great event,” she recalls. “We showed we had a lot to offer and it got people talking more about the women’s team. We’ve kept on growing since then and the success we had in Germany has generated more interest, as well as extra support and commitment from fans. The mindset is changing. There’s more passion now and that’s motivating us even more.”

As the 19-year-old goes on to explain in her soft but firm voice, she is one of Mexico’s battlers. “I can handle myself physically and in the air and I’m very passionate about pulling on the green jersey. I think this team can go on and achieve big things, and do at least as well as we did last year.”

A scholar of the game
The Mexicans have put themselves through a tough build-up for Germany 2011, taking on three strong sides in USA, Sweden and Australia, and losing on each occasion, albeit by narrow margins. As those defeats suggest, Leonardo Cuellar’s side still have some fine-tuning to do if they are to fight their way out of a testing Group B that also contains Japan, New Zealand and England, their opponents in Wolfsburg in their opening game.

Rangel has fond memories of beating the English at Germany 2010, but knows Monday’s meeting will be an entirely different ball game. “At this level every team is a strong one and every game is difficult, though I think we’re in the right frame of mind to do the best job we can. We really want to get off to a great good start and put some good results together.”

A high school student debating whether to take a course in Business Studies or Management, Rangel has learned to juggle her burgeoning football career with her education. “I’ve been able to coordinate the two,” she explains. “I’ve kept my football up thanks to the support of my school and my parents, but I’ve never stopped studying because I know it’s hard for women to make a living from football. My education will be very important one day, and though it’s a huge sacrifice, it’s worth it to be here. It’s a unique atmosphere, so unique you can’t put it into words. We need to enjoy it and get as much out of it as we can.”

A veteran of two FIFA U-20 World Cups (Germany 2010 and Chile 2008), Rangel is proud to be representing her country on the global stage once more and believes the experience has helped her become a more fully rounded person. “I’ve grown so much since Chile, both in my personal life and in my football career,” she says, bringing the interview to a close. “I’ve never stopped learning and I want to keep on improving. The fact I’m getting picked shows that I’m doing things right. My aim now is to make the most of the opportunities that come my way and keep giving people reasons to believe in me.”