She was only 19, and had a 1,500-km road-trip ahead of her and a seemingly impossible dream to fulfil. In April 2015, just two months before the FIFA Women’s World Cup™ in Canada, and with her sister alongside her in the passenger seat, Maria Sanchez set off on a 13-hour drive that would take her to a trial with Mexico’s national women’s team.
“It’s always been my dream to play for El Tri,” the determined Sanchez told FIFA.com. “One of my schoolmates said they were organising a trial in California, so I drove with my sister all the way from Idaho down to Los Angeles, did the trial and they gave me the chance to play.”
The daring Sanchez learned a lot from that experience and is drawing on those lessons now at the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup Papua New Guinea 2016, where she has been showcasing her impish skills up and down the left flank.
“Ever since I was young I’ve been brave enough to try and achieve the goals I’ve set for myself,” she added. “So it’s normal for me to take a lot of that attitude out on to the pitch. I don’t think it’s easy to play the way I do and try to take on several people at the same time. It’s a risk that I like taking, though.”
A crowd-pleasing talentAlong with her explosive pace, her prodigious gift for dribbling has not gone unnoticed in Papua New Guinea, with her performances catching the eye of the fans. In the match against Germany, for example, cheers went up every time the No11 got on the ball and readied herself to take on an opposing player.
We have to give it all we’ve got because our place in the last eight is at stake. We need to be completely focused, like we’ve never been before in any of our games.
“It really motivates me when people get excited, but I know that I’ve got to stay focused on the game and try to help my team-mates,” said Sanchez, who picked up the Live Your Goals Player of the Match award in Mexico’s opening game against Korea Republic. “It feels good to hear the fans cheering you on, though it’s not the same if I don’t create a chance at the end of it all.”
A dedicated team player, Sanchez knows just how important her side’s final Group D match against Venezuela is to their hopes of booking a place in the quarter-finals.
“We have to give it all we’ve got because our place in the last eight is at stake,” she explained. “We need to be completely focused, like we’ve never been before in any of our games. Venezuela are going to be very tough opponents, and we need to take more of our chances because our finishing sometimes lets us down. It's something we can practice and fix before the next game, though. I just hope we can come away with the win.”
The scene is set, and Sanchez is determined to keep living the dream. All that remains to be seen is if she can keep her foot on the accelerator and set Mexico on the road to victory.