When Mexico won the gold medal in the 2012 Olympics, much of the narrative behind the success of that Luis Fernando Tena side was put on progress. Mexico had finally done enough to get past that imaginary line between being good and being great, and everything surrounding the Mexican game seemed so rosy and optimistic. But four years later, much of the big questions being asked then are being asked now. Is this Mexico team good enough to win the gold medal?
Naturally, there is pressure. There is pressure not just for being the current title holders but for being one of the country’s few hopes of getting a medal. There is also the fact that many see this team as a glimpse into the future. For all the comparisons to the team from 2012, this is still one of the better generation of young footballers in recent years. It’s a far cry from that Mexico team that failed to even make the Olympics in 2008. Under the command of Raul “Potro” Gutierrez, the state of this Olympic squad is as a good as it’s ever been, and when it comes to potential, there is certainly no shortage of prospects in this team.
And so, far away from London, Mexico face their first big test of the summer when they take on European powerhouse Germany. Without further ado, here is what to watch for in Mexico’s opening game of the 2016 Rio Olympics.
What to watch for:
Who else? Hirving Lozano - Hirving “Chucky” Lozano has emerged as one of the players to watch in this tournament. This is a player that at 21-years-old is already a Liga MX champion and a household name in Mexico. For much of this tournament, Mexico will look to Lozano for inspiration. In theory, the Pachuca winger has everything to be a regular in the senior national team. He is lightning-quick and has the tendency to turn up in positions where he can score. A good performance at the 2016 Olympics, especially against Germany, will do his career prospects little harm, and maybe, just maybe, help him complete a move to a top European league.
Mexico’s midfield - The fact of the matter is everyone knows what Hirving Lozano can do on the attack, and captain Oribe Peralta brings much-needed experience to the table leading the line. However, Mexico’s success will largely be dependent on their midfield. Coach Raul “Potro” Gutierrez played a 4-2-3-1 in their last friendly, and all signs point he will do the same against Germany. In that regard, what Erick Gutierrez does in the midfield and Rodolfo Pizarro’s energy in between lines will be decisive. If Mexico can get production they crave from the Pachuca duo, El Tri will only be a better team for that.
Germany is Germany - What to make of the current World Cup champions? Ultimately, it doesn’t matter if they field a Under-23 team or an Under-17 team. Germany is Germany. Sure, this team doesn’t have a Mesut Özil or a Toni Kroos, but that doesn’t stop them from being a very good team. Much of the focus will be on the Bender brothers, Lars and Sven, but there is a group of players in this team that could very well become regulars in the senior side. The center-back duo of Mathias Ginter and Niklas Süle looks like the perfect complement at the back, and Schalke 04 midfielder Max Meyer will likely be in charge of the building process in the team. There is also Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez’s teammate at Bayer Leverkusen Julian Brandt, who proved to be one of the brightest prospects in the German Bundesliga last season. Finally, there is the goal-scoring threat of Davie Selke. The 21-year-old Selke will undoubtedly be one of the young forwards to keep an eye out for in this tournament.