Mexico's Ramon Ramirez (pictured) in 1994 FIFA World Cup action against Bulgaria in East Rutherford, New Jersey, USA. (Photo: Mexsport)
MIAMI BEACH, Florida – There are few people in football who can provide a better perspective on Mexico’s history in the Copa America than Ramon Ramirez.
After all, the retired Tricolor great competed in three editions of the competition and was a key member of the squad during its first-appearance in 1993. That year, the now 44-year-old played in all six matches during a captivating run to the final, scoring in a 2-0 semifinal victory over host Ecuador.
At Thursday’s press conference announcing an agreement between CONCACAF and CONMEBOL for the 2016 Centennial Cup America (Copa America Centenario), Ramirez was happy to look ahead rather than dwell on the past.
In his view, the fact that the event will be held in the United States -- a country where millions of Mexican-Americans live – will benefit Mexico’s bid for the title.
“Here in the United States, with the affection that the Mexican fans have for the national team above all, when they come here, I think Mexico is going to play the Copa America as the home team here in the United States,” said Ramirez. “But that is independent because the opponents are strong. It is a hard tournament and Mexico on two occasions, one in which I competed, we were one match from being champions. So Mexico has that rub of someday being able to lift the cup.”
In the 1993 final, Mexico fell to Gabriel Batistuta and Argentina, 2-1. The legendary forward netted twice, breaking a 1-1 tie with his 74th minute game-winning goal. Benjamin Galindo successfully converted on a penalty kick seven minutes earlier for the Mexicans.
Just weeks later, Mexico went on to capture the first of three consecutive CONCACAF Gold Cups. Ramirez was a member of each of those championship squads, scoring three goals in 16 total games. He also won the 1999 FIFA Confederations Cup on home soil as El Tri defeated Brazil, 4-3, in the memorable final at the Estadio Azteca.
Clearly, the Guadalajara great knows something about what it takes to become a champion. He understands very well the importance of taking part in high-level tournaments and expects that Mexico will rely on its best in the Copa America Centenario.
“Mexico has to realize that if they do not come with their best team, they are going to throw away being a contender,” concluded Ramirez. “I think Mexico should take it with all seriousness. They should go with their best team and later dream about raising the cup.”
Mexico has participated in the Copa America eight times in total, also finishing as runner-up to host Colombia in 2001.