Mexico midfielder Jorge Enriquez has grown accustomed to success over the last two years, the 21-year-old having formed part of the El Tri sides that finished third at the FIFA U-20 World Cup Colombia 2011 and struck gold at the Men’s Olympic Football Tournament London 2012.
His fledgling career took another upward turn only last Friday, when he made his full international debut in Mexico’s 5-0 defeat of Guyana in their latest qualifier for the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™.
The Guadalajara player was still buzzing with excitement when he spoke to FIFA.com afterwards, giving his views on his rapid progress in the game, his ambitions and what that future might hold for a generation of Mexican players of whom much is expected.
Moving on up
Enriquez’s international career began 39 minutes into last week’s match in Houston, when he came on for veteran Gerardo Torrado, one of the mainstays of the Mexico side in recent years. The new boy did not disappoint, making an important contribution in the defeat of the Caribbean side.
Clearly delighted with his day’s work, the defensive midfielder said: “I’m excited and very happy. It’s a dream for me to be here and to be playing my part with these guys.”
As he went on to explain, his lengthy apprenticeship in Mexico’s youth teams have stood him in good stead for his full debut, allowing him to take the occasion in his stride: “The processes are pretty similar,” said the man they call El Chatón, “There’s a lot of good work done in the youth sides and the system is virtually the same, which makes things a lot easier.
“I think the good results we’ve had have really helped change the mentality in Mexico,” continued the winner of the adidas Bronze Ball at Colombia 2011, explaining how Mexico’s planning has paid off. “Youngsters look on us as winners now and they’re not scared by what they see, which I think is important. With our achievements we’ve changed the way they think and made them see us as role models.”
At 6'3 and physically imposing with it, Enriquez has broken the mould when it comes to Mexican holding midfielders, who are known for being short in stature and combative.
Many have already likened him with the Ivorian Yaya Toure, a comparison he views as an honour: “He’s one of those players who inspire a lot of confidence and he can really carry a team. He’s a player to who I look up to. I also try to model myself on Sergio Busquets. Both have a lot of quality and there’s so much I can learn from them.”
Enriquez has set his sights on playing in one of Europe’s top leagues one day, and the club where Busquets and Toure once joined forces is high on his wishlist: “It’s a dream of mine and I’ve worked very hard for it. It would be amazing for me and it’s one of my biggest goals. Let’s just hope it comes about soon. I’d love to go to the Spanish league with Barcelona, although the Premier League and Italy would be great too.”
In the meantime, however, comes another Brazil 2014 qualifier against El Salvador on Tuesday, with the upwardly mobile Enriquez ready to answer his coach’s call again.
“I watched the first game between the two teams, and sides like them can make life difficult for you because they don’t have anything to lose,” he said, looking ahead to Mexico’s final game in a section they have already won, assuring them a place in the final six-team phase of the CONCACAF qualifying competition for Brazil 2014.
“They don’t have any pressure on them and that makes them very dangerous. We’ll have to apply ourselves if we want to win the game.”
Academic they may be, but Enriquez hopes Mexico’s latest qualifiers are just the start of a long and successful career for him in the red, white and green of his country: “That dream and the fight for a place at the World Cup starts now. I want to play in it, enjoy it and bring some joy to Mexico, and I’m going to put everything I have into making it happen.”