Mexico hopes to match Olympic gold in Confed Cup
MEXICO CITY (AP) — The core of young players that helped Mexico win the gold medal at the London Olympics soccer tournament form the base of El Tri’s team at the Confederations Cup.
Mexico reached the tournament by rallying from a two-goal deficit to beat the United States at the 2011 CONCACAF Gold Cup final. El Tri hasn’t played at the Confederations Cup since 2005 in Germany, where it lost to Argentina on penalty kicks in the semifinals.
“Mexico has enough strength to beat anyone at any venue, and we hope that can happen in the Confederations Cup,” Mexico coach Jose Manuel De la Torre said. “Many didn’t think that Mexico could win a medal in London, and in the event we pulled off a big surprise.”
The medal was the first in soccer for Mexico at the Olympics, where the men’s tournament features under-23 teams with three overage players apiece.
Senior teams are at the Confederations Cup, a warmup for next year’s World Cup. Mexico opens against Italy on Sunday at Rio de Janeiro’s remodeled Maracana Stadium, and El Trio will rely on eight key players who helped beat Brazil in last summer’s Olympic final: Jesus Corona, Carlos Salcido, Hiram Mier, Hector Herrera, Giovani Dos Santos, Javier Aquino, Raul Jimenez and Diego Reyes.
Oribe Peralta, who scored four goals in six games at the Olympics, will miss the Confederations Cup because of an injured right thigh muscle.
“We’re not going to the tournament with the attitude of just be happy to be there,” De la Torre said. “I always say to the guys, we really think we can win this thing.”
After opening against Italy, Mexico faces host Brazil and then closes first-round play against Japan. The other four-team group includes world and European champion Spain, Uruguay, Tahiti and Nigeria. The top two in each group advance to the semifinals.
“Ours is a tough group for sure, but so is the other one,” Mexican Football Federation president Justino Compean said. “We’re talking about the best teams in the world.”
A key player for Mexico will be Manchester United forward Javier Hernandez. Chicharito made just 13 Premier League appearances for United this season but scored 10 goals, and he had 18 in 22 games overall. He has 32 in 48 games with Mexico after Tuesday night’s World Cup qualifier against Costa Rica.
In addition to Hernandez, Mexico will count on Valencia midfielder Andres Guardado and Mallorca forward Dos Santos.
Real Sociedad forward Carlos Vela was omitted by De la Torre, who said he was not “totally dedicated” to the national team. Vela and De la Torre met in Madrid in May, and the coach decided the player’s priorities were elsewhere.
In 2010, Vela was one of two players suspended from the national team for six months following a late-nigh party after an exhibition against Colombia in Monterrey, Mexico.
“I have always said that to win, you need everyone,” De la Torre said. “But you can lose having one guy who is not dedicated to doing the job.”