Vega: We came to play six games

24 Jul 2021
  • Mexico opened their Tokyo 2020 campaign with a thumping win over France

  • Key Attacker Alexis Vega says El Tri are chasing medals 

  • “We’re really motivated to make history"

Try as they might, Mexico were unable to unlock France’s defence in the first half of their opening game at the Men’s Olympic Football Tournament Tokyo 2020. While they were thwarted by the goalkeeper on several occasions, on others it seemed as if their luck had deserted them as the ball missed the target by a matter of centimetres, triggering an increasing sense of despair. “In the first half both teams struggled to adapt to the rhythm of the game,” Alexis Vega said in an exclusive interview with FIFA.com. “We were too far apart from each other, and that’s not what we’d been working on in training.”

CHOFU, JAPAN - JULY 22: Alexis Beka Beka #12 of Team France holds off Alexis Vega #11 of Team Mexico during the Men's First Round Group A match between Mexico and France during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Tokyo Stadium on July 22, 2021 in Chofu, Tokyo, Japan. (Photo by Alex Grimm - FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images)

Yet it is precisely during such tricky moments that leaders come to the fore; geeing up their team-mates, making a precise pass or unexpected move. And Vega is one such player. “I’ve had several injuries that’s helped me mature a little faster, see things differently and to value much more where I am right now,” he said. “But it’s also thanks to my team-mates that I’ve got this opportunity and they make everything really easy. I feel really good out on the pitch.” Once the referee blew his whistle for half-time, El Tri coach Jaime Lozano only had words of encouragement for his charges during the interval. “He told us we were playing pretty well but that the team was too far apart sometimes. We needed to be more compact and aggressive. You could see that change in the second half."

CHOFU, JAPAN - JULY 22: Alexis Vega #11 of Team Mexico celebrates with teammates after scoring their side's first goal during the Men's First Round Group A match between Mexico and France during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Tokyo Stadium on July 22, 2021 in Chofu, Tokyo, Japan. (Photo by Alex Grimm - FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images)

Goal fest

And so Mexico turned on the style. Not two minutes had passed in the second half when Vega broke the deadlock, after which the floodgates opened. “We regained possession, knew how we wanted to play and deserved the result. We were expecting a very tight match, but we created chances and managed to put them away. “That’s something we’d been working on even before we arrived in Tokyo. The coaching staff showed us videos and gave us all the tools we needed to know what to do. Then it’s down to us to take decisions on the pitch that we think are right in any given moment during the game.”

Having learned the lessons from that first match, Mexico are now focusing on their next assignment against host nation Japan. “They’re going to be our toughest opponent,” Vega said. “They’re the home team and play really good football. We’ve been watching them to see how we can hurt them. I’m sure that if we keep working in the same way then it’s going to be a great game.” Part of Mexico’s preparations for that fixture will involve remaining grounded following their goal fest against France – a team always considered among the favourites to win gold. “We’ll keep working with humility,” Vega continued. “The sacrifices each of us makes, with everyone playing their part, will be vital. The tournament is just beginning and we haven’t won anything yet. We know we need to keep our feet on the ground in order to keep reaping what we’ve sown, because we came here wanting to play six games.”

Mexico have already shown what they are capable of and, at an extraordinary Olympic Games, are looking to repeat their feat from London 2012. “It’s all different because of the pandemic,” Vega said.

“But it’s still something incredible and will go down in history. It’s been fantastic. Everything’s amazing in the Olympic Village. They’ve treated us really well and we’re mixing with athletes from different disciplines. There aren’t any spectators in the stadiums but we know our fans are supporting us from afar.”

Vega concluded the interview with a message as forceful as his on-pitch displays for the team’s next opponent: “Our trademark is that we’re very intense and we put teams under a lot of pressure. We’re a compact team and we’re on the same wavelength; we’re very direct, we like to counter-attack and we’re clinical in front of goal. We’re really motivated to make history."