- Two-time world champions Mexico face elimination
- Playmaker Jairo Torres tries to analyse what has gone wrong
- A 'final' awaits against Chile on Saturday
One point from two games and on the brink of exiting the tournament is a poor return for any side, let alone the two-time world champions. Mexico would certainly have envisaged a very different start to their FIFA U-17 World Cup India 2017 campaign, but those are the facts. After only managing a draw in their opening match against Iraq, El Tri were on the end of a 3-2 loss against England on Matchday 2.
"We're obviously disappointed and very sad," said a downbeat Jairo Torres to FIFA.com after defeat to the Three Lions. "But we never gave up," he added. "If we'd made it 3-3, it would have been deserved."
Indeed, the response Mexico showed to going 3-0 down to England was admirable. Pulling one goal back, they were spurred on by a vociferous crowd at the Vivekananda Yuba Bharati Krirangan Stadium in Kolkata, and a draw seemed very possible when Diego Lainez scored his second to reduce the arrears further. Despite creating some great chances late on, however, 3-2 was how it stayed, leaving Torres and his side with the bitter taste of defeat.
Mexico's No7 is the heartbeat of the El Tri side. Their fulcrum and playmaker, in critical moments, the young man in the team to produce the necessary flash of inspiration. At the CONCACAF U-17 Championship (the qualifying competition for the FIFA U-17 World Cup), Torres led Mexico to victory and won the Golden Ball award given to the best player of the tournament. Moreover, as early as November 2016, he made his senior debut for Club Atlas in Mexico's top flight, still aged just 16. "It was an unforgettable moment for me," he said. "My goal is to get more playing time for Atlas in the near future. After that, anything can happen. Europe would also be an option for me."
Torres' plan had been to announce himself to a global audience on the stage of the U-17 World Cup in India, but he has admitted his performances so far have not been good enough. His sights were set firmly on lifting the trophy, yet he could very soon be on his way home after falling at the first hurdle. He has not given up, however. "Nothing's decided yet, and our performance here should give us confidence in our final game. We have a strong team and we'll give it everything we've got." Mexico finished fourth at the last U-17 World Cup, but to reach the last 16 this time, they must win at all costs against Chile and hope the other result in the group goes their way.
Should they fall short, there may be one crumb of comfort to be had for Torres. His role model, the Brazil superstar Neymar, also suffered elimination in the group stage of the U-17 World Cup back in 2009. Yet now the Paris Saint-Germain forward belongs among the game's very few players that genuinely merit the tag "world-class". "When I was a kid, I used to watch him play a lot," said Torres. "Even then it was obvious that he would be one of the greats."
And who knows - perhaps, somewhere in the world, a young boy will be watching the young pretender against Chile on Saturday and, transfixed by his talent, choose him as his own role model. Torres himself would surely be only too happy to oblige.