Mexico has established itself as a modern power at the U-17 level.
After entering the 2019 tournament with little if any expectations, “Chima” Ruiz and his El Tri side is one match away from a third world title in eight years after disposing of the Netherlands 4-3 in penalties after drawing in regulation time 1-1.
With any big match, the heroes come out when their team needs them most. In this instance, Mexico had two.
Los Angeles-born Galaxy starlet Efrain Alvarez didn’t start the match, but came on late in the 74th minute. The Dutch would strike first in that same minute off a goal from Ajax product Youri Reeger but Efra just needed a few more minutes before he responded on a dead ball free-kick.
Alvarez’s fourth goal of the competition would take the game to penalties after regulation. The MLS homegrown talent almost became Public Enemy No. 1 after missing Mexico’s first penalty on a failed chip.
That miss put the Dutch in the driver’s seat for the next few penalties until Chivas youth keeper Eduardo Lalo Garcia unleashed two strong penalty saves to give Mexico the lead.
However, Queretaro midfielder Joel Gomez would miss the go-ahead penalty and the Dutch would tie things up to go into sudden death.
In sudden death, Tijuana’s Victor Guzman put Mexico up front before Garcia saved his third out of six penalties and propelled El Tri to the final.
El Tri managed to vanquish a Dutch side that was superior to the Mexican team from a pure talent perspective.
The Dutch controlled a large portion of the overall game, holding 58% possession overall (64% in first half), and endangered Mexico many times with a total of six shots on target, double that of Mexico’s.
One shot hit the crossbar, another clear chance was missed by Reeger—who himself would momentarily give Holland the lead later— and a few more were saved by Garcia, who came up clutch for Mexico even before PK’s. The Chivas keeper had a total of four key saves, including this one.
The Netherlands were also disallowed a goal in the first half due to a foul on Garcia. Per FIFA rules, a player is not allowed to touch neither the ball nor the keeper when the keeper has one hand on the ball.
Here's goal which was disallowed due to a foul on the goalkeeper.— FMF State of Mind (@FMFSoM) November 14, 2019
...really makes you think about other Dutch goals against that should have been disallowed #MEXNED | #eltrieng | #U17WC pic.twitter.com/Cf6cepny30
Mexico boasted good performances from Pachuca product and El Tri captain Eugenio Pizzuto and Monterrey’s Josue Martinez, who both commandeered Mexico’s midfield, but the real chances didn’t come for Mexico until Alvarez was on the pitch.
This isn’t the first time this tournament that Alvarez has been a game-changer for Chima Ruiz’s team. The 17-year-old winger, who ended the MLS season with 18 appearances, two goals and three assists in all competitons for the Galaxy, also came on late in Mexico’s group stage game against Italy.
El Tri went on to lose that game against the Azzuri in stoppage time, but not before Alvarez scored a beauty of a goal to tie things up for the moment.
Throughout the entirety of the tournament, Mexico has never trailed nor conceded when Alvarez starts.
It wasn’t the prettiest win, but Mexico nonetheless competed with the best in European youth football—the current U-17 European champions—and managed to hold on for the win.
Through Garcia’s heroics, the Mexican defense held Holland to one goal in regulation after the Dutch had scored at least three goals in their previous three games (including four goals against the USA).
MEX: Efrain Alvarez (79’)
NED: Youri Reeger (74’)
| Zo gaan we straks beginnen! Kenneth Taylor is helaas ziek achtergebleven in het hotel.— OnsOranje (@OnsOranje) November 14, 2019
De aftrap is om 20.30 uur Nederlandse tijd en live te zien op https://t.co/I4mZaXX8Vn.#U17WC #MEXNED pic.twitter.com/pGli2tQKgp
Check out the preview for this match here.
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