Brent Latham: FMF sets lofty goals for El Tri

The FMF's unusual policy of publicly setting the bar high has spurred on Mexico's national sides.

To welcome the New Year, we recently set some goals for El Tri for 2013. On Tuesday, the Federation did us one better, delineating one by one the targets for its national teams this year.

In the case of the FMF, this sort of planning has become a strong suit. On the heels of the well mapped and diagramed gold medal run at the 2012 Olympics, Mexico has become perhaps the best-run federation in world.

Planning ahead has been key. So why not, as we’ve suggested in the recent past in the case of El Tri in 2013, go ahead and set the type of ambitious goals that Mexico outlined - and achieved - in 2012?

That’s just what national teams director Hector Gonzalez Iñarritu did on Tuesday afternoon, declaring that El Tri should win the Gold Cup and qualify for the World Cup in addition to being a finalist at the Confederations Cup in 2013.

An intriguing aspect of the Mexican Federation in recent years has been its willingness to come out and openly state its goals. Find me another federation in the world with the organization and foresight necessary to hold a press conference and delineate exactly what needs to be accomplished in a given year for teams from U-17s on up to the full national team.

It takes a lot of guts as well, since falling short makes you the target of angst and ridicule, and jeopardizes jobs. It’s much easier to hide behind a wall of mediocrity than to tell the world that only the highest levels of success will be accepted.

Gonzalez Iñarritu himself acknowledged as much on Tuesday when he told the press that few believed him last year when El Tri set the goal of an Olympic medal, before qualifying for the Games had even begun.

“They didn’t believe us when we said we’d get to the medal podium in London,” he said. “All of this comes from what you believe. We know it’s not easy, but we’re working hard.”

Such extraordinary self belief is what Mexico is suddenly all about. Confidence can take you far in sports, but it’s arguably even more important in a sport like international soccer, where chemistry and intangibles go a long way towards determining results.

On the wings of that sort of belief, El Tri has become a preeminent team in the confederation and indeed the world, Iñarritu assured.

“Mexico’s being looked at differently now with the results in the Sub-17, Sub-20, and Olympics,” he said.

That’s why a goal of making the final of their respective World Cups for the U-17s and U-20s doesn’t seem at all overambitious. For teams that made the final four in both events in 2011, winning one, what other goal would make sense?

Iñarritu did leave himself a little room for error in these predictions, saying that qualifying for the semifinals at the Confederations Cup would count as a success. That makes sense, given the challenge of the group and a potential semifinal matchup with Spain.

The goals that are less flexible are the regional ones: win the Gold Cup and qualify for the World Cup. If that seems like not much of a stretch, it’s only because the dawn of 2013 has been accompanied by a feeling amongst El Tri’s stakeholders that this is the year that will bring much bigger things for the country on the international stage.

If that happens, much will be down to the Federation’s unique willingness to chart a course for all of its national teams well ahead of time.

Far from overreaching, the Federation is right. When the bar is set high, as it turns out, goals become that much more tangible. Even if - as has become the norm with Mexico - those goals are of an extraordinarily challenging nature.