The Golden Age of Mexico



Welcome to the new golden age of Mexican soccer.

No matter what the age level or competition, El Tri has been bringing home trophies and medals, usually of the golden variety.

As a public service, I will refresh your memory of the Big Green Machine's outstanding work and accomplishments over the past 10 months (yes, that's 10 months, not even a year).

Chicharito's Excellent Adventure

In chronological order:

  • On June 25, 2011 Mexico showed the United States and the rest of the confederation, for that matter, who's the boss, by overcoming a two-goal deficit and register a resounding 4-2 triumph over the Americans on U.S. soil, but in a Mexican environment, at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif.
  • On July 11, El Tri's Under-17 team did the senior side one better by winning its age group at the FIFA U-17 World Cup with a 2-0 win over Uruguay at Azteca Stadium in Mexico City.
  • On Aug. 20, the Mexicans fell a little short of their younger version's accomplishment by defeating France, 3-1, to finish in third place at the U-20 world championship in Bogota, Colombia.
  • On Oct. 28, their U-23 side showed its class by capturing the Pan-American Games gold medal with a 1-0 victory over Argentina in Guadalajara, Mexico.
  • And on Monday, that same team did a slow victory lap around the Livestrong Sporting Park field after it earned the CONCACAF U-23 championship with a 2-1 extra-time win over Honduras in Kansas City, Kansas, two days after qualifying for the London Olympic tournament.

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And of course, there are more challenges and opportunities to bring home wins and precious medals on the horizon as World Cup qualification begins on June 8 and the Olympics from July 26-Aug. 11.

How Mexico will fare in England, or any of the 15 other teams, for that matter, is anyone's guess. Their group-stage opponents could determine a team’s fate.

Youth teams and Under-23 teams are difficult to gauge, no matter what the country, unless you have someone of the caliber of a Carlos Tevez (who played for the 2004 gold-medal winners Argentina) and/or Lionel Messi (who stood out for the 2008 gold-medal winners Argentina).

From what I have seen from the Mexicans, they have a pretty solid side (Alan Pulido and Marco Fabian, among others, have impressed), although their defense, particularly their play on set pieces, certainly can be improved.

As it turns out, Mexico could wind up getting some help. While El Tri and Honduras have qualified as U-23 teams, they, along with the 14 other participants, will be allowed to use as many as three overage players.

Given the talent that Mexico boasts at the senior level, coach Luis Fernando Tena has his choice of riches. Where do you begin? do you take Giovani dos Santos? Carlos Vela? Andres Guardado? Or Pablo Barrera? And there’s much more from where that comes from.

If he is smart, Mexico U-23 and now Olympic and coach Luis Fernando Tena will take a goalkeeper and/or a defender, midfielder and a striker.

In a perfect world, that striker would be the one and only Chicharito, who would be a perfect fit for this team. He would give it a world-class striker, someone who could decide close games, turning losses into draw and ties into victories.

While Tena said that Javier Hernandez would be a "natural" candidate, he might not get his wish if Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson fights allowing Hernandez to play in the Olympics.

Fergie very well can claim it is United's preseason and that performing with the Mexican team would get in the way of Chicharito's preparation. United could lose several players to the Olympics, including the Great Britain team.

Of course, that might not necessarily be the best public relations move, especially if Mexico is drawn to play a game or two at Old Tragfford, ManU home. We'll see what happens. With Chicharito in the lineup, Mexico should have a fighting chance of getting out of its group and even into the medal round and become the first CONCACAF team to win an Olympic soccer medal of any kind.

Messi the Great

That's right, folks, no men's team from North America, Central America or the Caribbean has ever walked away with an Olympic soccer medal. Sorry, I am not counting the 1904 St. Louis Olympics, where Galt FC, a Canadian club team, earned a gold medal while the a pair of U.S. teams, represented by Christian Brothers Academy and St. Rose, finished second and third in soccer, which was a demonstration sport back then.

In fact, it is a rare achievement when CONCACAF teams reach the medal round. It has been accomplished only twice by Mexico at its own Summer Games in 1968 and the United States in at the 2000 Sydney Olympics. Except for those two occasions, it has been a barren wasteland.

But just remember, there are two sides to history -- continuing it, as in keeping the status quota, or making some news, sometimes some earth-shattering news.

After Mexico edged Honduras on Monday, defender-midfielder Miguel Ponce walked into the mixed zone after the match with a gold medal draped around his neck, I asked him if he would love to have one of those awarded to him in London in August.

“Yeah, it would be like the best one because now I have the Pan-American and this one,” he said. “I want an Olympic medal.

“Playing like this, I think we can give a surprise over there.”

Considering Mexico's marvelous achievements since June 25, Ponce should be allowed to dream a bit.

Given the way the Old Green Machine has been churning out CONCACAF and international titles these days, I would not be surprised if it makes a run for the gold.

Now, how appropriate would that be for the Golden Age of Mexican soccer.

Michael Lewis, who has covered soccer for more than three decades, can be reached at