• Wednesday Feb 20, 2013

    Mexico’s U-20 objective: the title

    PUEBLA, Mexico -- Always a main figure in CONCACAF competitions, Mexico comes into this edition of the Under-20 Championship backed by its home fans, though that will only increase the pressure on the young team.

    "The challenge we face is very big, and we assume it," head coach Sergio Almaguer told the Mexican Football Federation's website. "The project is a winning one and if I didn't think about winning every game I wouldn't be here in front of you. You always have to think of the highest level, always in order, in sequence, since we can't think about winning a tournament if we haven't even won the first game yet. Obviously we pay attention to those details and go step by step."

    Almaguer is the person in charge of guiding the Tricolor to the 2013 FIFA Under-20 World Cup in Turkey. Disputing the qualifying tournament in Puebla looks on the surface like an advantage, though his squad will need to make it count on the field.

    With eight of the players from the 2011 Under-17 World Cup winning squad on its roster, and several players who already have debuted in the Liga MX, Almaguer hopes his team can live up to expectations and get Mexico to a second straight Under-20 World Cup for the first time since 1999. Two years ago in Colombia, with Juan Carlos Chavez in charge, Mexico finished third.

    "We're working on the last details of preparing for qualifying. We're very motivated, happy, and we want to start the best way possible," said Almaguer. "We're getting ready for the game, to win the first game, which is the most important. Then we'll open the door for the second and make sure we have a third game, which is the definitive one."

    Attackers Marco Bueno and Carlos Fierro are the principal goal threats for this team. Both are part of the so-called "second golden generation" and have experience in the top level of Mexican club football, thanks to the chances given them in Pachuca and Guadalajara, respectively.

    Fast, skilled and with good long range shots, they might find Jesus Corona to be an ideal partner in crime. The Monterrey midfielder will be a primary party responsible for generating offensive thrust. His individual skill allows him to get loose in the offensive third and send precise passes into the rival area, but he also knows how to score. He netted twice at the 2012 FIFA Club World Cup.

    Armando Zamorano and Jorge Espericueta will play alongside Corona in midfield. The former has 2,022 minutes of action in the Liga MX (more than anyone else on the team) with Jaguares of Chiapas, making him a natural leader. Espericueta flashed his great talent at the Under-17 two years ago, and debuted with Tigres in the group phase of the 2012/13 CONCACAF Champions League.

    In goal, Richard Sanchez, who was born in the United States with Mexican citizenship through his parents, stands out. The starter for that 2011 U-17 team, he plays for FC Dallas of Major League Soccer.

    With those principal figures, El Tri will try not to come up short in front of the fans in Puebla, and achieve one of the four tickets to the Under-20 World Cup.

    "The team looks very good," the coach said. "Obviously we'll take advantage of these days to detail certain things according to the rival, because our tactical system is very clear, in terms of how we'll carry it out. They understand it very well and the details we'll give them about the opponents will be very important for the boys."

    The host team debuts on February 19 against Curacao, before taking on El Salvador four days to wrap-up Group D play. Mexico faces a potential quarterfinal on Wednesday against Panama, Puerto Rico or Jamaica, though Almaguer's goal will always be nothing short of winning a second straight U-20 regional title.

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