It was the second half of Mexico’s second Group A clash here at the FIFA U-17 World Cup 2011 when, with the host nation leading 1-0 against Congo, the African side suddenly poured forward in attack. There once again to sniff out the danger was defender Carlos Guzman, who - after winning the ball back - pulled off a neat shimmy before turning on a sixpence to evade the attentions of two opposing players, triggering an enthusiastic ovation from the 25,000-strong crowd in the Estadio Morelos.

“If you think how motivating it is to play in a World Cup in your own country, just imagine what it’s like to do so in your city, in your team’s stadium and with your friends and family close by. It’s twice as exciting,” said 17-year-old Guzman, the only member of this El Tri squad that plays for Monarcas in Morelia, where Mexico have played and won their opening two games.

Class at the back
Having joined Monarcas’ youth ranks at the age of 13, Guzman has already been called up to train with the club’s first-team squad on a couple of occasions. And though a top-flight debut appears some way off for the moment, his coaches for club and country have been encouraging him to keep working on his forte: an innate ability to start moves from the back.

“I’ve always enjoyed bringing the ball out of defence, it’s like it was something I was born with,” El Tri’s No3 told “In fact, I’ve modelled myself on Rafa Marquez, whose class on the ball is incredible. And though we have different styles I like [Carles] Puyol too, because he always gives it everything he’s got to win. Just like me.”

It’s normal that we’re being tagged as contenders because we’ve performed well and we’re playing at home. We’ve got character and physically we can compete with anyone.

Carlos Guzman on Mexico's chances

His performance against the Congolese backed up that statement, with Guzman very nearly weighing in with a goal in the 2-1 success, while the scores were still locked at 1-1. “I’ve had one scoring chance in each game so far, so let’s hope it’s a case of third time lucky. Of course I’d love to score against the Netherlands but, if I could choose, I’d rather score in the knockout stages instead.”

Intriguingly, the player shares a surname with Ever Guzman, who was Mexico’s second top scorer in their global U-17 triumph at Peru 2005. Though the pair are not related, they do know each other, share a birth place and are both products of Monarcas’ youth system. “That’s right,” said Carlos. “And let’s hope things go as well for me here and they did for him (in Peru).”

One step at a time
Nor does Guzman shy away from giving his verdict on the struggles of Mexico’s final group opponents the Netherlands: “Their results have surprised us, but the Dutch are still the European champions.

“They’re a different kind of team to the ones we’ve faced so far, they’ve similar characteristics to ours and it’s always easier taking on opponents that are willing to have a go. But we’ve got a solid defence, so we’re prepared for a match that swings from end-to-end.”

With Mexico now classed by many observers as the tournament favourites, on the back of their wins over Korea DPR and Congo, Guzman underlined the importance of not believing the hype. “It’s normal that we’re being tagged as contenders because we’ve performed well and we’re playing at home. We’ve got character and physically we can compete with anyone. But we mustn’t let the praise go to our heads. This squad is strong and isn’t getting carried away.”

On the same theme, the full-back emphasised the fact that El Tri remain fully focused, despite having already secured a Round of 16 berth. “It’s satisfying to have achieved our first objective, but we’re not going to switch off now – we want to win the group,” he said as the interview drew to a close.

“After that we need to take it one round at a time, though just like any other side going into a World Cup we want to be crowned champions. We’ll show respect and stay humble, of course, but we want to go all the way.”