GUADALAJARA, Mexico – This Friday at 7:00 PM ET, Concacaf will be airing a re-broadcast of two matches from the 2018 Concacaf Men’s Under-20 Championship: The Qualification Stage Group H match between Panama and Mexico and the Final between the United States and Mexico. The matches can be seen on Concacaf’s YouTube and Facebook pages, plus the Concacaf App.
A key member of that Mexico squad was current Chivas DF Gilberto Sepulveda, who appeared in seven matches during the tournament and scored two goals to help Mexico clinch a berth in the 2019 FIFA Under-20 World Cup.
“It was a great tournament, it made each one of us grow as players, we scored a lot of goals but it varied a lot as well,” said Sepulveda in an exclusive interview with Concacaf.com.
“There were games where we won 9-0 and in the next game it was really tough and it ended 2-2. That’s how we experienced it. It was also a tournament in which we realized that we could not take for granted any opponent and let them stay alive. We couldn’t lower our level because we knew that in Concacaf, it’s always tough and it was important for us to stay focused so we could qualify for the World Cup,” added Sepulveda.
In the group stage, Mexico poured in 31 goals, while conceding just two scores in five games to finish with a 4W-1D-0L record. Sepulveda feels like El Tricolor managed to stay true to their style in that phase of the tournament.
“The objective of scoring so many goals was part our idea of play. The truth is that the team had a fixed idea on how it wanted to play. All of the players knew the function that they had to perform. We played together. It was to be practical, intense and above all, score the chances that we had. Also, we didn’t concede many goals, which was also very important,” said Sepulveda.
It is easy to understand why Mexico were so prolific in front of goal when the quality of the squad is considered. Players like FW Jose Juan Macias and MF Diego Lainez, each of whom have already appeared multiple times with the Mexican Senior National Team, formed part of a team that brimmed with talent.
“It gave us a lot of confidence to have teammates of such great quality. On a personal level, it made you grow more, it demanded more of you to show yourself more to your teammates. Player by player, it is impressive the quality that each one had and the careers they have had since,” said Sepulveda.
The Qualification Stage saw Mexico paired with El Salvador and Panama, and thanks to a narrow 1-0 win over the Cuscatlecos and a comeback 2-2 draw versus the Canaleros, Mexico punched their World Cup ticket.
“We realized that we had to be alert in that phase, that it was not going to be so easy. We knew that the next phase was going to be hard, the scorelines were close and the matches were very difficult. We were able to move forward, but I think that the quality of each one of my teammates helped us moved forward in those type of matches, which were very tough,” said Sepulveda.
While they fell 2-0 to the U.S. in the Final, Sepulveda takes a lot of satisfaction from the fact that Mexico achieved their ultimate World Cup goal.
“From the beginning our first objective was the qualification and the ticket to be in a World Cup. It is what we were looking for. Obviously, we had more objectives in the tournament, but the priority was the World Cup because we knew if Mexico did not qualify, it was going to be a failure. The team had a lot of pressure on it, so it was important that we stayed calm. We enjoyed it a lot and we’re happy for that achievement. The coaching staff was happy and I think it was a very special moment for us as players to reach the World Cup,” concluded Sepulveda.