• Monday Nov 23, 2015

    Mexico women dream of returning to Olympics

    Veronica Perez (green jersey) played every minute of Mexico's three matches in the 2015 FIFA Women's World Cup, scoring one goal. (Photo: FIFA via Getty Images)

    DORAL, Florida – If Mexico is make a second-ever appearance in the Olympic Women’s Football Tournament, it will not have to defeat the current World Cup champion United States in order to achieve that ambition. 

    At the draw for the 2016 CONCACAF Women’s Olympic Qualifying Championship (CWOQ) on Monday, the Tricolor discovered that it will face the host Americans, Puerto Rico and Costa Rica in Group A. The top two teams will advance will advance to the semifinals against Group B’s first- and second-place sides. Berths to Rio de Janeiro 2016 will be awarded to the winners of the final-four encounters. 

    This means that even if Mexico falls to the U.S. in group play, but still finishes second in the group, it will meet either Canada, Guatemala, Guyana or Trinidad & Tobago for the right to be one CONCACAF’s two representatives. 

    “It is a very interesting group,” said Leonardo Cuellar, Mexico’s long-time head coach. “Playing against the reigning world champion, I understand the difficulties that this great team is going to present, but we are enthusiastic about this great opportunity that is presented to us of seeking that dream of returning to an Olympic Games.” 

    While Cuellar was happy to avoid the U.S. in the match that ultimately decides one of the qualifiers, he is not underestimating his team’s other Group A opponents. Costa Rica reached the final of the 2014 CONCACAF Women’s Championship to book a place in the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup, where each of its three matches were decided by a goal or fewer. Puerto Rico finished as runner-up to Trinidad & Tobago in Caribbean Olympic qualifying and is now coached by Garabet Avedissian, who guided Costa Rica through its runner-up finish in last year’s CONCACAF event. 

    “It could be an advantage to face the United States in the group phase, but you have to give importance to everyone,” Cuellar commented. “The beginning is very important. It is what sets the tone for your chances and now you have to take it match by match and hope that the results take you to that game for the Olympic ticket.” 

    Mexico, which competed in the 2004 Olympics, is the third-winningest team CWOQ history with seven victories in 13 all-time games. Three of its six losses have come in the semifinal stage or later. 

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