Today is Children’s Day in Mexico, and what better way to honor it than to look back at one of the biggest prides in Mexican football history: the Mexico Under-17 National Team squad that won the 2005 World Cup. That was the first WC title at any level obtained in history by the country, and would become the first of only two that Mexico currently owns today (the other being the under-17 2011 WC).
The 2005 Under-17 World Cup edition took place in Peru. Mexico was expected to move on in their group, and they did, ultimately finishing 2nd place behind Turkey. Come playoff time, Mexico struggled in the Quarter-finals vs. Costa Rica, but ultimately overcame them in extra-time. After that, the Semifinal and the Final vs. Netherlands and Brazil respectively, were a pair of absolute dominant performances, with upcoming stars like Giovani Dos Santos and Carlos Vela going bonkers on their rivals, which allowed for Mexico’s first ever World Cup title.
It was the cup that made an entire country believe it could truly become World champion one day. It allowed everyone to see Mexico’s future players for the first time and lit a hope that they were the chosen ones to finally help Mexico get over the hump and compete with the big dogs once they came of age. But as we all know, the fairy tale went completely south soon after. And so, what ultimately became of those main players which ended up sticking out from that squad?
Centre-back Hector Moreno has probably been the most consistent player on that 2005 squad. After making his debut with Pumas in 2006, Moreno would be transferred to Dutch club AZ Alkmaar at the end of 2007, and would go on to play for R.C.D. Espanyol, PSV Eindhoven, AS Roma, and Real Sociedad. He played in Europe for a total of 12 years as a consistent and undoubted starter on all of his teams. Today, he plays for Qatari club Al-Gharafa. Not to mention, he has been a part of the past 3 Mexico WC teams.
Next comes Carlos Vela, who has been the one to show the most quality and skill with the ball at his feet. English side Arsenal purchased him immediately following that 2005 WC, but just never amounted to anything in his 7 years there. He was loaned out four times in that period but just never established himself as a consistent starter, until his final year loaned out to Real Sociedad. Thanks to that year, the Spanish club decided to sign him permanently. And after 6 very consistent and good quality years, in the middle of the prime of his career, he decided to quit on the European dream and chose to sign for LA FC in the MLS instead as his next home, where he remains today, dominating a league which is obviously too small for him. He never accomplished much with the Mexican National Team either, after two disappointing World Cups (2010 and 2018), and deciding to sit out the one in 2014. His lack of hunger is what has stood out during most of his career.
And finally, this brings us to Giovani Dos Santos. Probably the best player in that 2005 WC, he went on to have the most disappointing career out of these top 3. Unable to establish himself in Barcelona, he went on to play for 7 teams in Europe in a span of 8 years. Then chose to play for LA Galaxy where he had his ups and downs, and currently in his 9th team, plays for Club America back home in Mexico. His biggest moment was probably the 2014 WC goal vs Netherlands to give Mexico a 1-0 lead. But his is ultimately a huge career letdown after seeing that footage from him in Peru in 2005.
To not leave out the other players on that squad that “made it” to a lesser extent, we have the cases of Efrain Juarez, “Pato” Araujo, Cesar Villaluz, Edgar Andrade, and Adrian Aldrete. Aldrete was probably the best out of the 5 and had the most consistent career. But the other four just wandered the league and never became more than regular-level starters. They were never able to even become true stars of the Liga MX, despite Efrain Juarez being transferred to Scottish side Celtic FC, as he remained invisible there. The highlight of their careers remains that 2005 WC title, even though they’ve played some type of role with the Seleccion Mayor. They just never gave that step to become what was expected of them.
A bit of a sad realization here on Children’s Day, but one can only reminisce on what could’ve been from this young and very talented group of players, who left us with our mouths wide open after beating up on Netherlands and Brazil in a dominating fashion. They were supposed to be the ones to carry the National Team to important games and to places it had never reached in its history. Instead, they were just added to the list of letdowns, and what a long list that is. They chose to hide when it mattered the most and proved they were not only uncapable, but unwilling as well of dealing with the big moments, as they could not even reach the levels and accomplishments of the previous Mexico NT squads (Rafa Marquez, Cuauhtemoc Blanco, etc).
And so, Mexico still sits and awaits its next leader(s) and group of players who they hope can one day take them to and beyond that famous 5th World Cup match.