Mexico: From despair to hope
RIO DE JANEIRO -- Every cloud has a silver lining.
I don't know who coined that expression, who thought of it first or who reflected as such, but I believe it is fitting for the recent turn of events and the situation in which Mexican football finds itself. The Mexicans arrived in Brazil barely two weeks ago with their expectations at rock bottom, yet now expectations are flying high. The recent events should be seen as a lesson not only in football but also in life: Something good can come of even the worst-case scenario.
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We don't need to do any calculations; for now, the numbers are in Mexico's favor.
Nevertheless, more than 180 minutes after such a competitive, impressive and inspiring football performance, we continue to ask the same question: How far can this team actually go?
For the answer, we need look no further than Mexico's privileged position, in which they find themselves going into their last game of the group stage against Croatia. Mexico are fortunate in the sense that not one but two outcomes could lead them to make it through to the next round. Monday's game is also another valuable opportunity for them to test their level of football and to what extent they have improved during this World Cup.
Don't get me wrong; I am not saying that this may be the end of the road for Mexico's World Cup journey. Without a doubt, that would be a conformist opinion, yet we cannot forget that considering the expectations with which the Mexicans arrived in Brazil, what they have achieved during the group stage has far exceeded them.
I stand by my guns: Mexican football cannot be measured in terms of points, goals or even how far they get in any given stage. The level of Mexican football can be measured only by the degree of competitiveness they show on the field. After the game against Cameroon, and even more so after the game against Brazil, one thing is clear: This team has character and solid foundations, and is worthy of a fight.
How far can Mexico get? To be honest, I don't really know. I don't see them -- as I never have -- as a team out of their league. I do believe, though, that with this team, Mexico should start laying the foundations for the future Mexican teams. Mexico are playing with young players, and in a situation of dire emergency, they stumbled across a coach who is more than capable of pulling the strings from the sideline. He also can deal with the often-complicated nature of a World Cup competition.
Now it's time to start looking ahead to the future. Let the players make the most of this World Cup, let them gain experience and continue to demonstrate what they are capable of; what they strive for; their courage, their technical, physical and mental abilities; and above all, their fighting spirit. Now is when they begin working on a project that will come to fruition in four years' time in Russia and again in eight years in Qatar. If Mexican soccer, for once in their lifetime, allow themselves to work on long-term projects in a disciplined, measured and ordered fashion, then I am sure that something great will come of it.
Let us enjoy every minute of this World Cup squad. They are not going to win the World Cup, and they are not going to make it to the semifinals, but they will certainly give it a try, fighting for every ball and showing the world the type of fighting spirit that a Mexican brings to a game of football.
A totally different picture has emerged from the hopeless situation of a few months ago, which was fraught with problems and concerns.