Although it hasn’t led to similar success at the senior level, Mexico has recently produced youth World Cup champions. The 2011 U-17 World Cup winning side will be the focus of this piece. This team likely played my favorite game by Mexico at any level. Their come from behind victory against Germany to reach the Final at Azteca. It is common for youth stars to shine at an international tournament only to not be heard from again for a couple years when they are fighting for first team minutes. This team is coming up on 3 years from that magical night at the Azteca,  some are already getting first team minutes, others don’t even know what the bench looks like. Lets see where the players in the final are now:

Starting XI
GK
  • Richard SANCHEZ ** (GK)- He was recently transferred to Tigres after a prolonged flirtation with the club. He is a veteran of 2 youth World Cups for Mexico (U17 & U20) and has to be the best youth goalkeeper Mexico has. He has repeatedly said he intends to only play for Mexico even though he is eligible for USA. At this point, Sanchez needs to play to keep improving. Tigres have 4 other keepers on their roster and Sanchez always seemed like a prime candidate to go out on loan. Shortly after his arrival to Tigres, his old club (FC Dallas) experienced a bit of an injury crisis at GK. Tigres agreed to a short term loan that will see Sanchez be the #2 keeper for a couple of months in Dallas. I believe Sanchez has loads of potential, just needs more opportunities to grow. He is at the age where the occasional international friendly and reserve game wont do it anymore.
DF
  • Francisco FLORES** -The youngster has only made a handful of appearances for his parent club of Cruz Azul. He has seen action in  Copa Libertadores for Cruz Azul but has not been able to crack the first team. As is the case with a lot of young Mexican internationals, he has spent time on loan at Chivas and is currently there. He has seen action in their youth teams but the move has not really panned out for him. The man that brought him in, Juan Manuel Herrero, has already resigned. Chivas are a mess, it remains to be seen if this promising right back can earn any first team minutes there.
  • Carlos GUZMAN -Carlos has seen spent his fair share of time on loan. As any young player coming up on a good team, he has had to cut his teeth at other clubs.  After showing well on his latest loan to Puebla, he is now getting the playing time needed to develop at Morelia. Carlos  seems to have gained his footing in LigaMX with Morelia showing faith in him by giving him starts in matches other than Copa MX.
  • Antonio BRISENO (C)**-He has been captain of every age group he has played in. Was brought up in the famed Atlas youth system but was hardly given a chance with their first team. The team sold his rights (& Arturo Gonzalez’s rights) to Tigres for an estimated $2.25 million US dollars as Atlas was going through some money issues. As most transfers are in Mexico, this one was met with a bit of controversy. Apparently, the new owners of Atlas were not aware of the team had sold their rights to Tigres. Arturo still has not reported to Tigres and is determined to honor his contract with Atlas. El Pollo has reported to Tigres and even opened his scoring account with the club in Copa MX play. In recent interviews, El Pollo has said he is confident he can work his way onto the first team and fight for valuable minutes. His coach is Tuca Ferreti. For Antonio’s sake, I hope Tuca forgets how young he is and plays him.
  • Jorge CABALLERO- Still  has not made his debut in Liga MX. Monterrey have brought him along slowly, using him in their youth teams. Monterrey will likely work him into their first team by using him in Copa MX matches this year. Look for him to feature mostly in Monterrey’s youth teams and in youth international matches for El Tri.
MF
  • Jorge ESPERICUETA**- Expectations have been high for a while on Espe and winning the Silver Ball at the U17 WC only added hype. Many expected Jorge to be a regular for Tigres in LigaMX but Tuca Ferreti has a history of not playing younger players. Espericueta has been on loan at Villareal since January and is set to be there until December. I have not been able to find any information if there is a buy option after the loan expires. He isn’t the only Mexican international plying his trade there. He is expected to mostly play for Villareal B. He found his groove toward the end of the 2013-2014 season. Espericueta should play a big role for Villareal B in hopes of convincing Villareal of paying up for his rights. Which seems to be the only way to make the jump to Europe from Mexico, have a euro team wow the parent club with dinero.
  • Jose TOSTADO  His career has been on a down turn since Chivas sold him shortly after the 2011 U17 WC. Citing his desire to quit his studies as the main reason. Jose is playing for Club Irapuato FC in the second division, trying to revive his career.
  • Arturo GONZALEZ- Has been caught in the middle another one of LIgaMX’s transfer sagas. I’m sure Alan Pulido knows that feel. It’s a messy situation where Tigres have paid for the player but Atlas has registered him and even started him this season. The new ownership is persistent the player was sold without his knowledge. Besides the messy transfer or no transfer, Arturo is developing well playing out wide for Atlas. He has been receiving steady minutes and, baring any fallout from the transfer mess, will play the bulk of minutes for Atlas at the left winger position. Many already see him as the spiritual successor to Andres Guardado at Atlas. It remains to be seen if he has the desire to go prove himself in Europe like El Principito.
FW
  • Carlos FIERRO **- Charlie Steel, as @TheStrayGoat likes to call him, has seen plenty of action at the ever stable Chivas. All things considered, he has developed as much as I would expect in that type of club situation. He is player that has held a lot of promise for a number of years. Fans of Football Manager are well versed on Fierro. As the winner of the Bronze Ball at the 2011 U17 WC, Fierro displayed he was of the better players in his age group. Charlie needs to keep improving to get within shouting distance of getting a full call up to El Tri. Chivas has been influx for years now, not helping his development. They need to figure out whether he is a winger or a striker. As a Club America fan, it pains me to admit this but I am a Fierro fan. He keeps rejecting my contract offers in FIFA and Football Manager but he still holds a lot of promise.
  • Marco BUENO ** After what seemed like rumor after rumor of him signing to Liverpool, he is still in Mexico. He trialed at Anfield but did not receive an offer to stay. Bueno was named “rookie of the 2012 Clausura” after a strong showing for Pachuca in LigaMX. That has been the only time he has received a decent amount of playing time for Pachuca. The club decided he needed more seasoning but somewhere he could earn playing time. This lead to a successful loan in the second division for Estudiantes last year where they nearly won promotion to the top. That earned him another loan to Toluca. Marco is said to be excited to be working with Jose Cardozo, one of the highest scoring forwards  in LigaMX. He is hoping to blossom under Cardozo like Conejito Brizuela. With the busy schedule El Tri will face in the coming summers, Bueno should be a lock for one of the “B” team/U23 tournaments. I can see him playing for Mexico as they try to defend their Olympic Gold in 2016.
SUBS
  • Julio GOMEZ (+63′)** AKA La Momia – He had a great WC and deservedly earned the Golden Ball, completing a Mexican sweep of the individual awards. He might of found his niche, scoring bicyle goals in Youth WC elimination games. A niche that US keeper Cody Cropper does not like. He has not being able to replicate those exploits in LigaMX. La Momia has not cracked 200 minutes in LigaMX during any season. He reportedly said he was sick of Pachuca after not receiving any minutes during the 2013 Apertura season. Currently on loan at Chivas, he has pretty much only played Copa MX minutes and has not even seen the first team bench this season. Gomez has been relegated to U20 minutes this season. Gomez appears to have been surpassed at Pachuca by Jurgen Damn who has been subject to an offer by Chelsea. At this stage of his career, Gomez needs to be playing. This might mean dropping  down a division but he needs to swallow his pride if it means helping his development. 
  • Giovani CASILLAS (+85′)- Another Chivas player on this team. Same story as most of the players on this list, hardly any first team minutes and currently on loan. I expected him to play big minutes while on loan at Chivas USA in 2013 but his loan was cut short and he was summoned back to the parent club…. to play less than 200 minutes the rest of the season. The winger is on loan at Chiapas this season and has featured in 2 Copa MX matches. 
  • Marcelo GRACIA (+75′)- This Monterrey product worked his way into 4 LigaMX matches last season but did make the bench an additional 9 times. Monterrey uses him regularly in their friendlies and Copa MX games. 
** = 2013 CONCACAF  U-20 Champions
Chances are you will only see most of these players if you can go watch U20 games or are a big fan the Copa MX. Most players have the similar growth curves and need time before cementing spots. Not everyone can step onto the field and keep a spot at such a young age. It is no surprise most of the great prospects come from the better teams in Mexico. Its these teams that will likely have top talent on their squads, making it hard for youngsters to see action.
Although youth success is great, it is not a great indicator of future success at senior level tournaments. Nigeria has won it 4 times, that’s 4 more times than Spain, Italy, & Germany combined. Its not like only youth internationals make the jump to becoming senior internationals.   There are always players who contribute to the national team without ever having being called up for a youth camp. Few people knew who a 21yr old Hector Herrera was but now, even fewer can imagine El Tri without him roaming the midfield.  El Zorrilo was never called into any youth camps (not counting preparations for the Olympics) and how he was even discovered was somewhat lucky. The 2018 World Cup is years away. As Mexico fans, we should expect a bumpy ride there. But hey, we will always have the 2011 U17 WC.

 

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