Mexico went from worst to first, climbing to the top of Group B and qualifying to the U16 UNCAF FIFA Forward Tournament in Honduras. After a last minute disappointing tie against Nicaragua, Mexico bounced back to get wins against Guatemala and Costa Rica, booking their ticket to the final where they will face the hosts and winners of Group B, Honduras. The final will be played on Sunday, October 23.
1st Match: Mexico vs. Nicaragua
Mexico started their tournament in an almost shocking loss against Nicaragua, considered by many to be the weakest team in the group. Mexico started sluggish and looked to not have it together, maybe from over confidence or maybe because it was their first match. The thing was that the match was extremely even until Nicaragua’s Javan Uriarte shocked them with a goal to take the 1-0 lead. After the goal, Mexico finally turned it on and dominated the last minutes, but couldn’t convert until the last minute of injury time where a low shot from Israel Tello tied the match and upgraded Mexico from a terrible result to just having a bad one.
2nd match: Mexico vs. Guatemala
It was a different Mexico on Wednesday, coming out offensively from the opening whistle. Mexico got an early lead with a goal from Stephano Carrillo that helped them, but they also wasted numerous chances. Guatemala got the tying goal, which unfortunately wasn’t seen in the telecast because of technical problems, but Mexico struck back with a goal by Isaac Martinez. Mexico added another goal, this time by Alex Valencia, but a penalty kick gave Guatemala a second goal and placed the game 3-2. Mexico however took advantage and got back a goal with a quick play that gave them the 4-2 lead through Carrillo. That goal was key and after that, Mexico continued to dominate against a frustrated Guatemala. In a key moment of the match, Fidel Barajas got a goal after his shot was deflected into the net and Mexico then immediately pounced on the restart, with Stephano Carillo getting his hat trick. In just a couple of minutes, the lead had grown all the way to 6-2. In the last minutes of the match, Hugo Camberos got the best goal of the day with a long shot that placed the final score to 7-2, a crushing win to get Mexico back in contention for the final.
3rd match: Mexico vs Costa Rica
Mexico came into their final match needing a win against Costa Rica, who came in as the group leader with 6 points. The result against Nicaragua meant that a tie would give Costa Rica the group, so Mexico needed to get the win. Mexico went out from the start and took advantage of a bad mistake by Costa Rica when they lost the ball, allowing Mexico to get a pass in the area to Israel Tello, who got off a left footed shot for the 1-0. Mexico was the better side, and it was clear they were improving as the tournament went on. In the second half they had some chances before ello, who was by far the best player of the match, made a good run and got off a great cross to the area where Stephano Carrillo headed the ball in for the 2-0 lead. Costa Rica tried to bounce back but Mexico had the better chances for the third goal, and were the better side and got a deserved win that gave them the group with 7 points to Costa Rica’s 6.
Mexico didn’t have a great start, but they improved as expected and are now in the final. It will be an extremely tough match as they face Honduras. The hosts have won of all their matches, although they had the easier group with Cuba, El Salvador, and Panama. They should be favored, although Mexico has improved and at a neutral venue, they might have been the favorites. Still, Coach Raul Chabrand has done a good job getting this team to improve, but they are now facing the toughest test of the competition.