Sunday 10 July 2011 will forever be remembered as the day that Mexico’s squad of talented 16 and 17-year-olds became men. El Tri achieved what no other host nation has managed in the history of the FIFA U-17 World Cup by winning the title on home soil. And they did it with style, winning all seven of their matches and lifting the trophy in front of a crowd of nearly 100,000 fans at the legendary Estadio Azteca.
“We’ve made history,” adidas Silver Ball winner Jorge Espericueta told FIFA.com just minutes after his side’s 2-0 win over Uruguay. “Not just in Mexican football, but in world football. To be the first host team to win the competition, especially after winning all of our games, really fills us with pride.”
The key to this success was teamwork. We hope we’ll become an example for future generations to follow.
Until now, no other Mexican side has ever won a FIFA World Cup at the Estadio Azteca, making the U-17 team’s triumph all the more remarkable. “I’ve been here with this team before, but I wasn’t able to play as I was injured,” said the Tigres midfielder, a look of disbelief still on his face. “The coach, Gutierrez, said ‘hold on until the final’. And here I am. My first match at the Azteca and I’m a world champion.”
At that point, Mexico captain Antonio Briseno joined the conversation. “It was an amazing experience and we’d like to thank everyone who came to support us,” said the defender, who scored the opening goal against Uruguay. “It’s incredible playing here. I’ve got goosebumps.”
“And to think you told us you were going to score one today!” said Espericueta, nodding to his team-mate. How did Briseno know this? “To be honest, I dreamed I was going to score a header, but I didn’t do too badly with my foot,” joked the Atlas defender. “Luckily, I put it into the corner so nobody could keep it out.”
Present and future
Joking aside, Briseno is deadly serious in his praise of team-mates Julio Gomez, Espericueta and Carlos Fierro, who won the adidas Golden, Silver and Bronze Ball awards respectively. “They’re all great players but even greater people, and I’m sure they’ll keep their feet on the ground,” he said. “They won’t stop here and they’ll keep aiming higher, but they won’t get carried away with what they’ve achieved.”
Reflecting on his side’s triumph, Briseno speaks with all the cool-headed authority of a true captain. “As the days pass we’ll come to appreciate just how big an achievement this is,” he said, before heading off to the mixed zone to meet the assembled press. “But we mustn’t get carried away because we have other goals, such as playing in the Primera [Division] and making it to the U-20 tournament. It doesn’t stop here.”
One of the last players to leave the changing room was goalkeeper Richard Sanchez, who entered the room carrying a member of his entourage on his shoulders. Before leaving to continue the celebrations, the Mexico No1 signed off with one final message. “I think we’ve managed to follow in the footsteps of the U-17 team that won the competition in 2005,” he said. “The key to this success was teamwork. We hope we’ll become an example for future generations to follow.”