Eric Gomez: Mexico's golden generation now sets sights on 2014 World Cup

Following Mexico's historic gold medal win at Wembley, El Tri has now placed or won three major youth championships with the senior side gearing up for the ultimate prize in 2014.
Pride, joy, ecstasy.

In the midst of all of the emotions consuming Mexican fans following El Tri's spectacular Olympic run that sees it drape a medal around its players necks for the first time ever, this seems like just a good enough time as any to lay some perspective into the mix.

Mexico's giant steps in the youth arena has it as well positioned as any other squad out there to make a solid run at the next big senior team championships.

Less than a year from now, Brazil will host the 2013 Confederations Cup, also known as the dress rehearsal for the 2014 FIFA World Cup. Following Mexico's successful Gold Cup last year, a deep run in the Confederations could turn some heads en route to the ultimate prize. Even then, the road to World Cup glory isn't necessarily paved via a good Confederations Cup. No, Mexico's voyage will take it forcibly through Columbus, San Jose, San Pedro Sula and other regional hot spots.

Barring a massive amount of injuries, a freak drop in form or unprecedented ascension from four or five CONCACAF teams, it's safe to assume Mexico will be at the World Cup. By then, we could be seeing Olympic standouts such as Diego Reyes, Marco Fabian, Javier Aquino, Hiram Mier and Hector Herrera suiting up for European teams and appearing consistently on senior team lists for Jose Manuel de la Torre.

These players, along with indomitable Giovani dos Santos, who at just 23 has already performed so many career revivals his nickname should be "The Phoenix," have already carved their name into Mexico's history books when they dispatched Japan in the semifinals at Wembley. Their rise is no accident.

As we've documented many times in the past, Mexico's response to the United States' growth and the shift of power in CONCACAF years ago prompted an overhaul in order to foster talent from a young age, harness them into a singular system of play and enrich existing talent with a tougher mentality destined to overcome adversity.

The team's U-17 World Cup in 2005 win showed glimpses of what this new plan would entail. Giovani dos Santos and Carlos Vela launched their careers with the title, one they would look to replicate two years later at the 2007 U-20's. However, a failed senior team process with Hugo Sanchez at the helm stunted the chance for Mexico to rise at any level, considering Sanchez guided them to a disastrous 2008 Pre-Olympic campaign.

Three years later, a magical summer catapulted the master plan back into the fold. A second U-17 title, third place at the U-20's, Panamerican gold and a regional championship in the Gold Cup were all there within months.

A year later, the missing building block linking youth success with a chance of glory at the senior level has been put in. Mexico's Olympic run will live long in the memory, and its architects have succeeded beyond the usual pressure and negativity surrounding El Tri seemingly all the time.

Through it all, it can be said that while nothing is assured beyond today for Tena and his players, there is only a handful of teams around the world fostering so much talent at every level of the game. Mexico's depth chart is three-deep at some key positions, which creates interesting problems for Chepo de la Torre.

Jose de Jesus Corona is unavailable? Memo Ochoa, Jonathan Orozco or even Alfredo Talavera can fill in at goalkeeper. Javier Hernandez has Aldo de Nigris, Oribe Peralta and now, surprisingly youngsters like Raul Jimenez and Alan Pulido tugging at his shirt for a chance at a starting spot. Carlos Salcido's days are numbered thanks to his Olympic teammates Chaton Enriquez and Hector Herrera. Maza Rodriguez, Rafa Marquez and Hector Moreno can't help but look over their shoulders at Hiram Mier, Diego Reyes and Antonio Briseño.

And while the term "golden generation" has taken a somewhat negative tone for some, likening it to a fluke or a window of time in which Mexico can only use to rise temporarily, there is nothing incidental about El Tri's rise into the world spotlight.

When the celebration has died down, and CONCACAF qualifiers, not Olympic medal games are once again the focus for Mexican fans, perhaps a logical progression can be detected, and a next step targeted.

Mexico has conquered the youth arena, what could possibly be next?

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