It’s going to be a very busy 2013 for El Tri at all levels. Here’s a quick look ahead to all that Mexico fans have to look forward to in the New Year.
World Cup qualifying
Given that many El Ti fans will regard qualifying for the 2014 World Cup as a foregone conclusion – as well they might, given that CONCACAF almost certainly will have four teams in Brazil – the importance of the year-long World Cup qualifying Hexagonal is diminished somewhat.
The fact remains, however, that Mexico hasn’t topped the qualifying consistently since the Hex began for the 1998 World Cup, also the last time that El Tri finished alone at the top of the CONCACAF table. That should be a goal for the Federation this year, as the best way to prove on the field that Mexico has truly become the undisputed king of the region.
In addition, El Tri can take aim at the record of 22 points from 10 games that Costa Rica achieved in the 2001 Hex. With a pretty weak regional field, that’s certainly a possibility for this Mexico team.
The most important event of the year for Mexico, the Confederations Cup is El Tri’s chance to show that it’s arrived on the international level. With a group that includes Italy, Japan and Brazil, just getting to a semifinal will be a challenge.
In rubbing elbows with the world’s best, El Tri can define its potential role in the 2014 World Cup. Mexico has done well in this competition in the past, and a title at the 2013 Confederations Cup would establish El Tri as a definite contender to win the World Cup next year in Brazil.
The regional championship will be a secondary event for Chepo de la Torre’s side, but important nevertheless, as it will give some up and coming players a chance to show they belong in the discussion for the first team.
There’s no reason not to expect Mexico’s backups to challenge for a third straight title for El Tri at the Gold Cup, though Honduras and the U.S. are likely to provide firm challenges. Either way, there’s little to lose in this event for El Tri.
The upcoming Under-20 World Cup
The last generation took third place at the U-20 World Cup in Colombia, and this team could be even better.
Led by the likes of the electric pairing of Jesus Corona and Candido Ramirez, this team has attacking talent in spades and defensive security to keep it in matches with any team in the world. In fact, this version of El Tri’s U-20s has traveled the world over the last year winning titles far and wide: in Asia, Europe, and of course the Americas.
Given that the U-20s are the next generation to really make a difference at the full team level, this group of U-20s is set to make Mexico as proud as ever.
Expect them to roll through qualifying at home in Puebla without losing a game, and head to Turkey as one of the favorites to lift the U-20 World Cup this summer.
Under-17 World Cup
You think the 2011 U-17s were impressive? This group could be better than the World Cup winners.
They’ve proved it by traveling to Holland, Austria, Italy, Costa Rica and elsewhere to win tournaments against top level international and regional competition.
This is the best U-17 team in the region, and though talented US and Honduran sides may be able to give El Tri a game, Mexico is quickly emerging as the best U-17 national team program in the world.
Though CONCACAF qualifying in April in Panama could be tricky, given the one-off quarterfinal that could end up being against almost anyone, this U-17 El Tri team figures to go to the United Arab Emirates as one of the favorites to life a third U-17 World Cup.