FIFA U17 World Cup: Coach Mario Artegara explains how Mexico built its football empire
Mexico are two-time champions of the U17 World Cup, lifting the trophy in Peru 2005 and on home soil in 2013; they also ended as runners-up in 2013 and came fourth in the last edition of the FIFA U17 World Cup.
Furthermore, the youth team have picked up gold in the 2012 London Olympics. However, when it comes to the senior level, Mexico, truth be told, stand on the distant outer ring of major contention.
One can very well brace for a change in this pecking order. Come 2018, if Mario Artegara, the head coach of the U-17 Mexican team is to be believed, we may have to reckon the Mexican national side in a new light altogether.
Speaking on the reasons why the junior success has not been replicated by the seniors he gave a lengthy projection.
“It was a grassroot project that we began in 2009, where we decided to do a consensus between all the forces – the big clubs in Mexico – and started to project a long-term programme that gave really fast results in 2010. So now we have a lot of generations that they will try to show this result in 2018," said Artegara.
"We have the generation of 2005 with Carlos Vela and Giovanni dos Santos and the other successful generation of 2011. Now we have a mix of good and skillful players that are right now playing in the national team," he continued. "Now the expectations are very high with these players. They have lot of experience being champions. They know what to expect. We hope in 2018 we will be able to show the big skills of the Mexican football.
"Standing at almost the cusp of 2018 (World Cup), shouldn’t we expect this Mexican team to blow Iraq off the ground in their first match to be played today at the Salt Lake Stadium," Artegara said.
“They are a strong side. Iraq attackers and defenders are strong and they always surprise others with their performance – they seem to be well prepared. Iraq is the most complete team in the group,” he said.
However, they do have to restrict Iraq’s goal-scoring machine, Mohammed Dawood, listed as one of the top 30 best players in this competition. Dawood, who won Iraq the U-16 AFC Cup, chalking up six goals in the process, and earning the moniker of the Best Asian Player, may prove to be quite a handful.
Mexico defender Carlos Alejandro Robles Jiménez stressed on the importance that Artegara placed on preparing his defence.
He said, “We have been practicing for the last 20 months. The coach has made the defence very strong and has full faith in the defenders."