It may be the year of the snake in 2013, but will it also be the year of El Tri, when Mexico finally steps up to the world stage?
As we outlined on New Year’s Day, El Tri has a busy calendar in 2013. Certainly Mexico will want to do as well as possible across the board, but with so many events to conquer, some prioritizing may be necessary.
With tournaments looming beginning in February with the kickoff of the final round of World Cup qualifying and regional qualifying for the U-20 World Cup, some goal setting is probably in order.
The Mexican Federation is particularly good these days at setting goals, and then surpassing them. Rather than just aiming at doing as well as possible, Federation officials of late have set specific goals for teams to reach – for example medaling at the Olympics.
That process has definitely proved helpful, and will be again with a busy year on tap. So what are the primary goals for Mexican national teams in 2013? Let’s count down from five.
5. Dominate World Cup Qualifying for the Youth World Cups
After what should be a walkover at home against Jamaica in the first match of World Cup qualifying in early February, the first calendar action of the year for El Tri will come in late February in Puebla, at the CONCACAF U-20 Championship.
In the last youth World Cup cycle in 2011, Mexico was the most impressive nation in the combined competitions, finishing third at the U-20 World Cup and winning the U-17 version.
Getting back to both those World Cups is an obvious goal, but the true qualifying goal for El Tri’s dominant youth teams should be emerging undefeated and relatively untested from both regional tournaments (the U-17s play to qualify in Panama in April). Perhaps for good measure, the coaches could add the goal of not being scored upon.
4. Win the Gold Cup
The CONCACAF Gold Cup will be a secondary event for Mexico this year, with the Confederations Cup and World Cup qualifying on the schedule for the same summer period.
But make no mistake, winning a third straight Gold Cup should still be a top priority for El Tri. Losing to anyone, but particularly the U.S., would loosen El Tri’s claim on superiority in the region, even if the squad fielded is a B-team.
Also at stake is the supreme psychological advantage El Tri currently enjoys over the region, one similar to what the U.S. enjoyed over El Tri for many years on American soil. That ended abruptly when a U.S. B-team was pummeled in the final of the 2009 Gold Cup by Mexico, shifting the flow of momentum in the region. B-team or not, El Tri won’t want that to happen.
3. Continued Youth Success at World Cups.
As noted, Mexico achieved unprecedented levels of youth success in 2011. The only thing to do in 2013 is set the goals higher.
The alluring fact is that these versions of El Tri’s U-20s and U-17s could be even better than the last, meaning winning at least one Youth World Cup wouldn’t be an unreasonable goal for El Tri this time around. Of course, winning a title is subject to a lot of luck and the right situations, so semifinal appearances for both teams would be a more practical target.
2. Qualify for the World Cup with matches to spare
There’s a certain danger that with so many events on the calendar, World Cup qualifying could end up taking a back seat when it should be an obvious priority. But when the region has four World Cup spots virtually assured, there’s almost no danger that Mexico doesn’t qualify.
The goal, then, isn’t to qualify but to do so with several matches to spare, eclipsing the mark of 22 points from the Hexagonal set by Costa Rica in 2001. By doing that, Chepo de la Torre will get some vital matches to tweak things well before the big event rolls around next year.
1. Win the Confederations Cup
This is the event that El Tri and De la Torre have circled on their calendar in red ink. Opening round matches against Japan, Brazil and Italy are akin to the final rounds of a World Cup, and qualifying for the semifinals would put Mexico firmly among the world’s elite headed into 2014.
Winning the event, of course, by beating the likes of Spain and/or Brazil along the way, would give Mexico a further competitive boost and confirm El Tri’s rising place among the best in the world, as a true contender to win the 2014 World Cup. All that makes a good Confederations Cup showing the primary goal for El Tri this year.
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