GAZIANTEP, Turkey -- Mexico has some big shoes to fill at the FIFA Under-20 World Cup in Turkey: its own.
El Tri captured third in the 2011 competition and will be seeking another impressive finish in the prestigious youth tournament. Just as importantly, Mexico's roster contains six members from the team that won the FIFA U-17 World Cup that year.
"It really helps to have players in the squad who have already been through this experience," Mexico coach Sergio Almaguer told FIFA.com. "They are very important and play a key leadership role, but we don't want to burden them with all the responsibility for carrying us through. We've tried to use the whole team as our foundation."
The tournament kicks off on Friday with 24 teams vying for the coveted crown as the Mexicans begin their quest for the trophy against Greece on Saturday. They also play Paraguay (June 25) and Mali (June 28) in Group D.
"It's inevitable that we'll think about what we achieved in 2011," midfielder Jonathan Espericueta was quoted by FIFA.com. "But now it's time for us to give it our all and try to win this World Cup. Our objective is to be crowned world champions, but we're going to take it step by step."
Other key players for El Tri include midfielder Jesus Corona, forward Marco Bueno and captain and defender Antonio Briseno.
Mexico is one of four CONCACAF countries participating in the tournament, joining the United States, El Salvador and Cuba.
The U.S., which will compete in Group A, plays Spain on Friday, France on June 24 and Ghana on June 27. The Americans are led by midfielder Luis Gil and forward Jose Villarreal.
Cuba will square off against the Korea Republic on Friday, Nigeria on June 24 and Portugal on June 27 in Group B. Electric forward Aricheell Hernandez is expected to lead the Caribbean side's attack.
El Salavador will face host Turkey on Saturday, Australia on June 25 and Colombia on June 28 in Group C. Jairo Henriquez is the Central Americans' player to watch.
The top two teams plus the four best third-place finishers will qualify for the Round of 16, which will take place on July 2-3, followed by the quarterfinals on July 6-7, the semifinals on July 10 and the final and third-place match on July 13.
The U.S. has a difficult task against Spain, which coach Tab Ramos said has the same style as defending World Cup champion from the same country.
"The one thing about Spain is that they play the same way in all their age groups," Ramos said. "We just saw their U-21 team win the European Championship a few hours ago playing the same way as the first team. We've gotten to know this particular U-20 team very well and they also play in a very similar way to their first team. That's something that's very difficult for us and something that we're going to have to deal with."