For Mexico’s national teams, 2012 will be a tough year to beat. El Tri enjoyed success at almost every turn, but nowhere more so than at the Olympic Football Tournament London 2012, where the U-23 side took the gold medal.
For the senior side, there was also plenty to be cheerful about, as they advanced unbeaten to CONCACAF’s Hexagonal final qualifying phase for the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™. All of these accomplishments had one thing in common, and that was Giovani dos Santos.
The 23-year-old, currently starring for Spanish side Mallorca, enjoyed success after success with his national team last year, whetting his appetite for more of the same in 2013. With Mexico’s opening Hexagonal fixture against Jamaica just days away and the FIFA Confederations Cup Brazil 2013 also on the horizon, Gio made time for an exclusive chat with FIFA.com.
More of the same
Despite his impressive achievements with El Tri, the versatile forward has struggled to replicate this success at club level. After spending four years on the books of Tottenham Hotspur, where he was given precious little playing time and constantly loaned out, Dos Santos left London hoping to reignite his club career with Mallorca.
And while Los Bermellones are currently enduring a torrid time in La Liga and lie bottom of the table, the Mexican enjoys the full confidence of his coach and team-mates. "From an individual perspective I’m quite content, as I’m getting the playing time and regular games I needed,” said Dos Santos.
“I’m feeling better all the time, both in physical and footballing terms, and hope to continue in that vein and keep improving," he added. "However, as part of the [Mallorca] team, how else could I feel but worried and sad? It’s always complicated when you find yourself in the relegation zone. We just have to work, train hard and change the dynamic we're finding ourselves in during games.”
For me, it’s always been an honour to pull on the green jersey.
Turning to international affairs, Gio had this to say about El Tri’s present and future prospects: “We’ve got a great generation of players, who have been tasting success wherever they’ve gone. As we head into our opening Hexagonal fixture, we’re full of confidence. Hopefully we can start with a win and set the tone for what’s to follow. I think we have what it takes to have a great year.”
In spite of his tender years, Dos Santos is already a fundamental part of the national team set-up. As an U-17 world champion, Olympic gold medallist and veteran of South Africa 2010, he knows only too well he’ll need to be at the top of his game if he is to help Mexico achieve their objectives this year.
“It’s true that, for my young age, I’ve had a lot of call-ups and good international experience with the national team," he said. "For me, it’s always been an honour to pull on the green jersey. I’m very happy in that respect and hopefully there’ll be more triumphs to come.”
Gio’s first big success on the international stage came at the FIFA U-17 World Cup Peru 2005. There Mexico were crowned champions, marking a turning point for the country’s football, according to the player.
“Without a doubt that was the case, as we began to realize we could beat anyone,” he recalled with a mixture of pride and nostalgia. “We were kids playing without inhibitions against the best teams in the world. And so, in a way, we laid the foundations for the success that’s followed.”
And it is a success that has allowed the current senior team to tap into a stream of players who have already tasted triumph in youth categories. For Dos Santos, that has been the key to fine results achieved in recent months: “Competition within the squad is fiercer now, and that’s good for the team. We have players who know what it is to win and who are more and more talented.”
While first up next week are Jamaica, Mexico’s next major competition will be June’s FIFA Confederations Cup in Brazil, ahead of which confidence is understandably high: “A few days ago, our coach [Jose Manuel de la Torre] said Mexico’s goal was to win that tournament, and I fully agree.
"We’ll be taking it totally seriously and will be very much aiming to put in a great performance. Obviously, though, we first have to focus on our upcoming qualifying games.”
So the stage is set and Gio is keen for the first act against Jamaica to begin, albeit in the knowledge that they must take one step at a time. “We need to prepare for each game as they all have to be won out on the pitch," he concluded.
"This fixture is our first step on the road to Brazil and we’re convinced that, if we remain focused and professional, we’ll stay on the right track.”