Mexico’s participation in the 2023 U-17 World Cup came to an end in the Round of 16 after getting destroyed by Mali by a 5-0 score. It was an embarrassing performance for a Mexican side that got totally outclassed and in which coach Raul Chabrand looked to have no answers for a Mali side that totally dominated from the first minute. Mexico end their tournament run with a lackluster record of 4 points; one victory, a tie and two bad losses.
Mexico came out with the same starting 11 they played with against New Zealand. Early on, a pass into the area found Mahamoud Barry, whose left-footed shot was easily saved by Mexico’s goalkeeper, Paolo Bedolla. Mali came out early and took control of the match. A great combination play would end with Barry getting off a right-footed shot from outside the area that got past Bedolla and into the net to give Mali the 1-0 lead. Mexico tried to respond, but they were totally outclassed as Mali looked the overly superior side. A long ball into the area found Ibrahim Kanate, who got passed his man and calmly passed the ball into the path of Barryagain, who got off another shot past Bedolla, giving Mali the 2-0 lead.
A minute later, Mali got the ball back and went on the attack again, with a shot blocked by Luis Navarrette falling into the path of Ibrahim Diarra, who then fired a left-footed shot that went through the hands of Bedolla (who overall had a weak tournament) and into the net to score the goal that gave Mali the 3-0 advantage. It was an embarrassing start from Mexico who looked to be outclassed in every single way just fifteen minutes in. After getting a pass in the area, Ange Martial Tia got off a shot from close range that was blocked by Bedolla into the path of Diarra, who shot it wide with an empty net in a bad miss. After Mexico lost the ball in the area, Tia got another chance in the area but his close range shot was blocked by Bedolla.
Mali continued to dominate entirely and came close again when a cross almost got turned into an own goal by Mexico’s defense. Then, a half volley by Diarra was deflected right to Bedolla, but the ref ruled it a hand ball by Navarrette before the volley and gave Mali a PK. Ibrahmi Kanate stepped up to take the PK and with a right-footed shot that got past Bedolla, scored to give Mali the 4-0 lead. The match was over with the goal and Mexico subbed out Gael Alvarez (who easily was Mexico’s biggest disappointment in the tournament after being named as one of the Guardians top 60 players) for Jose Urias. El Tri finally got a chance when Stephano Carrillo got the ball and found Urias in the area, but his shot was blocked by Mali’s goalkeeper, Bourama Kone. In the ensuing corner, the ball was left for Javen Romero, but his attempt went wide. Mexico put together a great counter where once again Carrillo found Urias, but as he got into the area, his shot was blocked by Kone. The halftime whistle blew and ended possibly the worst 45 minutes for a Mexican side in a U-17 World Cup ever.
The second half started with Mali subbing out Moussa Traore and Hamidou Makalou for Gaouussou Kone and Ousmane Thiero. Mexico subbed out Adrian Fernandez and Brandon Lomeli for Tahiel Jimenez and Jose Suarez. It was the best sign of how bad Mexico had been that Jimenez got a yellow card 15 seconds into the half because of a strong tackle. Four minutes later, a cross into the area was headed from close range by Angel Martial Tia past Bedolla and into the net to give Mali the 5-0 lead as things went from bad to worse for Mexico.
Mexico continued to get totally overrun by Mali as the chance just kept on coming to widen the score even further. Both sides made multiple substitutions, clearly showing Mali were already thinking about their quarterfinal match and had deemed the match over, while Mexico were ready for the final whistle. Off a counter, Diop got off a right-footed shot that bounced off the post and hit Bedolla in the face. There would be no more chancesafter that as Mali punched their ticket to the QF and Mexico went out of the cup in the worst way.
Mexico crashed out of the U-17 World Cup in terrible fashion. If they ever wanted to know how the small Caribbean islands felt playing against them (one example, Curacao lost 9-0 in their opener against Mexico in the 2023 U17 CONCACAF Championship), they know now after Mali totally outclassed them in every aspect in the game. Physically, Mali looked like men playing against boys, but more notable was how the team looked totally out of sync strategically and had no answer for them. A lot of this falls on coach Raul Chabrand, who in 2023 had two historical losses. Besides this match against Mali, earlier in the year he took a Mexico U-23 to the Toulon final, only to lose that one against Panama by a 4-1 score.
Thus, this leaves a lot to be desired. Mexico go from the finalist in the 2019 U-17 World Cup that finished in 2nd place to the Round of 16. Overall though, it wasn’t a good tournament for Mexico, whose debut against Germany was also a bad loss by a 3-1 final, in which the Europeans totally dominated them. Mexico then got a 2-2 tie against Venezuela, in a match where Venezuela went down to 10 players in the first half with a deserved red. Despite Mexico being able to get a 2-1 lead in the second half, they ended up getting tied by the South American side. Mexico’s best game was their final group stage match, where they needed a victory to crush New Zealand and did so.
However, all that goes out the window in their Round of 16 which was disastrous. In my personal opinion, this was the worst match I’ve seen Mexico play in a U-17 World Cup, including losing a 6-1 match against Nigeria in the 2013 U-17 World Cup final. Mexico thus crashed out, and although there might’ve been some good moments and some players who had some great performances (especially of note: Stephano Carrillo) overall it was a disappointing performance and Mexico need to think out some things moving forward, especially coaching wise.