In 2005, Mexico had one of the most historic days in their football history. On October 2nd of that year, Mexico won the U17 World Cup after defeating Brazil 3-0, marking the country’s first win in a FIFA sanctioned youth tournament. The kids of the team were labeled heroic and the future of Mexican football, and it started an era of Mexico becoming a powerhouse in the U17 category. Since lifting the trophy in 2005, Mexico won another U17 World Cup title in 2011 and has gotten two second place finishes as well, in 2013 and 2019. Mexico also had a another semifinals appearance with a fourth place finish in 2015. Yet it is Mexico’s 2005 team who achieved the biggest response not only because they were the first to win it all, but because they did it in a time where Mexico hadn’t done much in those types of tournaments. Prior to 2005, their best showing was the U20 World Cup in 1977 where Mexico lost the final to the USSR.
The new success in 2005 brought a lot of expectations to a country that tends to go to extremes constantly. This has since lead to the point of view that the team and generation was a disappointment. Yet this shouldn’t be so. If anything, it’s been the most successful generation of all of the U17 teams that Mexico had.
Although for most people the 2005 team was more talented, the 2011 Mexico team won the title with better results, albeit on home soil. They won all seven games, unlike the 2005 team who lost their final group stage game against Turkey. After that tournament, Mexico won by beating Uruguay 2-0 in the final and they cleaned up the awards (unjustly in my opinion) with Julio Gomez, Jonathan Espericueta, and Carlos Fierro winning the Golden, Silver, and Bronze Ball respectively. So can we really call Giovani Dos Santos a disappointment when he went to three World Cups, had a career in Europe, and was a mainstay in the National team for years? Especially when six years later, none of the 2011 ball winners came close to doing any of that? The 2005 team had Carlos Vela, Hector Moreno, Giovanni Dos Santos, and Efrain Juarez all make a World Cup team. It also had Javier Hernandez, who didn’t make the World Cup team but was part of that generation and made the 2007 U20 World Cup along with the rest of them. The 2011 team looks like it will not have a single player make a World Cup, with only Antonio Briseño, Arturo Gonzalez, and Carlos Guzman being in the picture. While some people consider Dos Santos’ career in Europe to be a disappointment (which is only when compared to the exaggerated expectations), Briseño is the only one from the 2011 team to have a spell in Europe and it was in Feirense of Portugal. It’s clear which is the most successful of the World Cup winning U17 Mexican teams.
The criticism for the 2005 team isn’t new and it’s been based on wrong information. When the generation started to “stumble” a lot of criticism was around them not doing enough unlike other U17 World Cup winning teams which wasn’t true. A lack of success from those teams is common. To take an example, the 2001 U17 World Cup winning team from France, ended up having none of their players ever play a World Cup for France, although they did for other National teams like Tunisia, Ivory Coast and Algeria. The standout player of that team, Florent Sinama Pongolle, never went to any tournament with France as he only played a friendly with the senior team. A team with Moreno, Vela, and Dos Santos isn’t that common, as Mexico has showed so far in their later success with U17 World Cups. Mexico has continue a notable streak with second round finishes in the U17 World Cup and the 2005 team has been a part of it, while the 2011 and 2013 teams are not going toward that same path. The expectations were exaggerated but in the end, the problem was with the fans and not the team.