Few would have expected the biggest victory ever seen in the Girls' Youth Olympic Football Tournament to come from a team still smarting from a resounding defeat. Yet despite being comprehensively outplayed in their 2-0 opening loss to China PR, Mexico bounced back in style with a tournament-record 9-0 win in their second outing against Namibia, only to be eclipsed by a 10-0 scoreline in favour of the host nation over the Africans on Wednesday.
Such contrasting performances may inspire incredulous admiration among neutral fans but will come as no surprise to aficionados of Mexican women's football. Because leading the CONCACAF challengers into the record books was Tricolores legend Monica Vergara, who represented the senior team at the FIFA Women's World Cup 1999™ and at the Women's Olympic Football Tournament 2004.
Mexico's head coach has already experienced success in the dugout, having been assistant coach to the U-17 team during their march to the quarter-finals at this year's FIFA U-17 Women's World Cup, which was held in Costa Rica back in April. That campaign included a comprehensive 4-0 triumph over none other than China PR in the group stage.
When you add Mexico's 12 qualifications to FIFA women's tournaments at all levels into the equation, it should come as no surprise that Las Tricolores posted the biggest win ever seen in the Girls' Youth Olympic Tournament.
"I'm really pleased that we were able to get this result," coach Monica Vergara told FIFA.com, "because I didn't just see a victory; more importantly, I saw the team get back on track quickly [after losing the first game]. We're heading in the right direction and my team is getting more and more confident."
*Living the dream *The Mexican girls' latest showing bore all the hallmarks of Monica Vergara in her golden years. Fifteen years ago at the tender age of 16 years old, the former defender and central midfielder represented Mexico at the Women's World Cup in the United States, where she made the starting line-ups against Italy and Germany. Three years later in 2002, Vergara donned the green sheet again in the inaugural FIFA U-20 Women's World Cup. Now, aged 31, she is enjoying her first role as a head coach.
"Coaching is my dream," said the Mexican strategist, the emotion evident in her voice. "I've played football and represented the national team for many years. I've always hoped to pass on the experiences and insights of my own footballing career to the younger generation, so this job is everything I could wish for. It's my ideal job."
The North Americans came into the tournament with a strong pedigree following their top-eight finish at the U-17 Women's World Cup, In Kimberly Rodriguez and Montserrat Hernandez they have two players who already achieved big things in Costa Rica, defender Rodriguez having made the starting eleven for that victory over China PR. So, the one-sided opening defeat by the hosts here in Nanjing was all the more of a shock. Except to Vergara, that is.
"If you know the history of Chinese women's football, it is not surprising at all," she said. "I was once a player, so I'm well aware of the history and strengths of Chinese women's football, which has always been outstanding. So, no matter what the result, the game against the Chinese team was a very good learning opportunity. "
*Keep calm and carry on *Vergara's winning mentality undoubtedly played a major part in Mexico's ruthless victory over southern African contenders Namibia. "[In the game against Namibia] we were very calm and assured of victory," said the Tricolores taskmaster.
The girls in green will undoubtedly face their biggest test of the campaign when they take on gold medal favourites Venezuela in a crunch semi-final this Saturday, although their battle-hardened coach remains unruffled.
"For sure, [Venezuela] are very powerful," said Vergara with a smile, "but we want to test ourselves against high-level teams because we can learn from that. We'll make a game of it, we take every opponent seriously."