At the beginning of the summer, the plan seemed incredibly ambitious. Mexico’s national teams at various age levels playing in practically every available tournament. The full senior national squad? Playing in the Gold Cup. An under-23 squad? Going to the Copa America. The U-20s? In the World Cup in Colombia. The U-17s? Hosting their World Cup. Other junior players played at the Toulon Tournament in France. Even the women’s national team got in on the action, as they played in their second ever Women’s World Cup.

With so many tournaments going on for the men, this summer represents an opportunity for the Mexican National Team set-up overall. Dozens of players are getting experience in international tournaments. The objective in each tournament is different, and not all of the tournaments have been played yet. But there has been considerable success so far for Mexico, and leads to a great deal of optimism moving into the next World Cup cycle and beyond.

At the Gold Cup, Mexico entered as favorites, pegged slightly ahead of the United States. Mexico has flattered to deceive in the past, so although it seemed their talents like Chicharito and Andres Guardado would take El Tri to easy victories, it was not a certainty. But this squad got the job done, winning their group games easily, then going down to Guatemala in the quarterfinals, going to extra time against Honduras in the semifinals, and going down by two to the United States in the final. In all three knockout games, Mexico kept their composure and battled back to comfortable victories. Chicharito finished the tournament as the top scorer, and player of the tournament, and capped off a remarkable 12 months for club and country. This team was not even derailed by losing five players to a failed drug test early in the tournament, who have since been cleared and evidently will not face any suspensions. While Mexico, along with the United States, may be the class of a weak region, they were still able to focus and get the title.

The Copa America, still underway, has been very different. The under-23 squad featured no players from the Gold Cup except for the mercurial Giovani dos Santos, who was allowed to play in both tournaments presumably because Tottenham Hotspur was hoping he would raise his transfer value. The squad featured another setback when eight players, including several projected starters, were kicked off the team after cavorting with prostitutes. As a result, the squad is very different, and they have had tough sledding so far in Argentina, losing their first two matches to Chile and Peru. The press and fans of Mexico, who are truly football-crazy, have been wringing their hands over the poor showing at the Copa America. Given that Mexico was restricted from fielding a full senior team, they deserve some slack, and the tournament is providing, if nothing else, experience for many players who haven’t played very much at the international level.

The bad taste left in the mouth from the Copa America has been alleviated almost immediately by the U-17 World Cup as Mexico emerged champion, at home no less. Mexico also won the U-17 World Cup in 2005, and several players from that squad are playing in the tournaments this summer, including Gio dos Santos and Efrain Juarez in the Gold Cup. The excitement of this year’s U-17 World Cup came from a combination of three factors: Mexico’s general obsession with the sport, Mexico being the hosts of the tournament, and Mexico fielding a talented team. The fact that they were at home obviously provided a boost to the players, but in defeating the likes of Uruguay and Germany, no slouches themselves, the team demonstrated they could also thrive under the pressure. There were several notable games in the tournament, but the semifinal between Mexico and Germany was one for the ages. Germany scored shortly into extra time to go ahead 2-1, and then Mexico scored on an Olimpico, or a direct corner kick. On that play, Julio Gomez collided with a German player and needed medical attention after being knocked woozy and bleeding. But after getting his head wrapped up, Gomez jumped right into the action, and ended up scoring the winning goal on an overhead kick with time winding down. As a result, the 16-year old became a national hero, and Mexico moved on to win the title.

Mexico still has the U-20 World Cup coming up, and believe it or not some players have been held out of other tournaments in order to play in it. While nobody is necessarily projecting a title for them, a good showing will continue the optimism surrounding the national team for the next decade. Obviously, in the youth ranks, players will rise and fall over time, but if even a few players from each of the youth squads end up in the senior team, Mexico may have the talent to go with their ambitions on the international stage. It is too soon to tell if this was simply a good summer for Mexico or if this is the start of a new era, but it will undoubtedly make for irresistible viewing.

Written by Alicia Ratterree, gibfootballshow’s Mexican  corresspondent. Follow her on twitter

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