Mexican Olympic Soccer Team Ready to Show Talent
What to hope for from Mexico's men’s national team at the Tokyo Olympics
It’s been nine years since Oribe “El Cepillo” Peralta helped the Mexican Olympic soccer team win gold at the London Games. For those who don’t remember, Mexico won the gold medal game 2-1 with two goals from Peralta against a Brazil team that consisted of superstars Marcelo, Alex Sandro, Thiago Silva , Oscar, Hulk and Neymar.
Brazil didn’t score until the 91st minute! Looking back at that Mexican Olympic soccer team on paper you’d be forgiven for thinking, “What happened to these guys?” Of the players who were on the pitch that day only Hector Herrera, Diego Reyes and Raul Jimenez get regular minutes with the national team.
While the aforementioned Brazilian players have had successful careers in Europe, only Jimenez and Herrera are still playing in Europe. Olympic success doesn’t necessarily translate to international success. Brazil can also attest to that. They followed a runner-up performance in 2012 with a victory on home soil in the 2016 games, but they have failed to translate that to international success in major tournaments.
There’s no guarantee that this Olympic squad will have success at the Tokyo Games, nor that it’ll translate to the senior national team. There’s a lot of hope in the squad.
Diego Lainez stands out
Diego Lainez is the best player on the team. Cesar Montes and Johan Vazquez are the future of the defense. Eduardo Aguirre and Alexis Vega headline a forward line that saw JJ Macias, Santi Gimenez, and Santi Munoz be left out of the squad entirely.
Not to mention the inclusion of Luis Romo, the best midfielder in Liga MX last season, coming in as an overage player and taking charge of the midfield at the age of 26. There are five possible starters for the senior squad on this Olympic team.
It begs the question, what should be the goal of this team? The Mexican Olympic soccer team drew France, Japan and South Africa in the group stage. That’s not the worst possible draw, but it’s a difficult one nonetheless.
The winner of the group will face the second-place team from the group among New Zealand, Korea Republic, Honduras or Romania.
The other side of the bracket is not as forgiving with Argentina, Egypt, Spain, Brazil, Germany and Ivory Coast – more than likely Spain or Brazil – as possible opponents in the semifinal.
Daunting task for Mexican Olympic soccer team
Medaling in this tournament, on paper, looks daunting. After the failure to make it to the quarterfinals at the 2016 Games, it would be a small accomplishment to top the group. France is -130 to win Thursday’s match, according to FanDuel. But as we’ve already seen, success in the Olympics doesn’t translate to international success.
However, it is a great way to export talent. That’s not something that’s an issue for nations in UEFA or CONMEBOL. But for CONCACAF nations – Honduras and Mexico – it helps push the youth into tougher leagues and improve their quality.
It’s something that is sorely needed for the current young generation of Mexicans. Only Diego Lainez plays for a European club, Real Betis. Gerardo Arteaga does play for Genk in Belgium, but he is missing the tournament due to injury.
JJ Macias, who is also missing the tournament because of an injury, just signed for Club Getafe in Spain. But that’s it.
These aren’t run of the mill players in academies either, they are starters for their respective Liga MX team. They have talent. They just need to be given the chance (as well as a fair valuation by the Liga MX owners).
Having a tournament that sees the team get to the semifinals will allow that.
A great showing will put these young guys in situations to grow as players. That’s what we should hope for, not medals, but a chance for these young players to show Europe what they can do. A medal would just be icing on the cake.
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