July 10. It’s a day of anniversary, as the Mexico U17 World Cup winning team celebrates the 10 year anniversary of their World Cup win on this date back in 2011. Mexico won all of their matches to get their second U17 World Cup title, and up to now, their last. While Mexico has become a U17 powerhouse, ending in fourth place in 2015 and in second place in the 2013 and 2019 editions, as close as they have been they still have yet to win another title. It’s also coming up on the fifth anniversary of one of my first articles for FMF State of Mind, where I said that there was a danger that most of the players from the 2011 team didn’t look to be as successful as expected. Unfortunately, my fear has become reality.
In 2005, Mexico won their first ever world title in a youth tournament. It was an historic achievement that gave Mexico their first glory in what would turn out to be a very successful program, including the crowning achievement of winning the gold medal in the 2012 Olympic Games. Mexico’s team wasn’t seen as successful, even though the team had Giovani Dos Santos, Carlos Vela, Hector Moreno, and Efrain Juarez. All of those players went on to play in the senior World Cup, and the first three became stand outs. While people have criticized them at times, especially Vela and Dos Santos who were expected to be world superstars, in the end they had great careers. Dos Santos is the player with most titles with the Mexico shirt, while Vela became an historic player for Real Sociedad and for many he might be the most successful. Hector Moreno not only had a great career club-wise with clubs in Spain, the Netherlands, and Italy, but he’s been a rock in the national team and will be playing in the Gold Cup that starts today. While Efrain Juarez’ success was short lived, he was still good enough to make the 2010 World Cup team as a starter as well as play in Europe with Celtic and Real Zaragoza. The squad also had some players with long Liga MX careers like current Cruz Azul champion Adrian Aldrete and others like Enrique Esqueda and Patricio Araujo, who faded but were important players for their teams at times. In the end, it was a very successful team for Mexican football.
Unfortunately the 2011 team, of which it was feared would not live up to expectations, will now envy the success of the 2005 team. No player of that team has had a solid national team career. The most successful player from that team is Alfonso Gonzalez, who has had a solid Liga MX career with some talent but only at the club level with Monterrey. He’s made just three appearances for the national team, however his last and possibly only tournament was the 2016 Olympic Games which was for all intents and purposes a U23 event. The most talented player was Carlos Fierro, who has also had a solid career at club level with San Jose Earthquakes in MLS but never made a full national team either. Captain Antonio Briseño looked to have improved by going to Europe and playing with Feirense in Portugal, but after the team was relegated to the second division he returned to Mexico with Chivas, where his career has stalled. Carlos Guzman was at one point the most successful, but injuries have hampered him. Currently he has returned to Morelia, this time with Atletico Morelia in the Liga Expansion MX hoping to regain his one-time solid club career.
And yet it’s been a lot better than most. Players like Marco Bueno, Jonathan Espericueta, Julio Gomez, and Giovani Casillas are totally out of the picture club-wise. Bueno has made a career of traveling to far off leagues like Finland, Bolivia, and currently Guatemala, while players like the rest are all but out of competitive football. In the end, not a single player from the team looks to have any sort of career with the national team, which leads the team to being one of the least successful of all.
It looks to be that the most successful team in a World Cup of any category as they won all seven of their games, will have that as their career highlight. The better news is that although other teams faltered too, they look to not have had as strong a fall. It’s a positive thing that the 2019 U17 World Cup team has some solid prospects, including two players who already went to Europe and played in first division teams, something that the 2011 team only had with one player. Hopefully it’s a sign that Mexico is improving because that final step of transitioning the players from success in their youth teams to senior team success might be the most important one, and it’s the one Mexico has proved at least thus far, to be incapable of doing.