Mexico still have plenty to be proud about
It seemed inevitable, didn't it?
Mexico has exited the World Cup for the sixth time in a row in the round of 16. There's plenty to be disappointed about after the narrow 2-1 loss against the Netherlands, but fans must remember the process that the national team went through.
Going into the World Cup, there was a massive amount of doubt for the squad, and it was completely justified.
El Tri had gone through various coaches and fell way below their expectations during 2013. At this point last year, there were worries that Mexico wouldn't even take part in the World Cup. If you had told me nine months ago that El Tri would make it out of the group stage in Brazil, I would have been ecstatic. Nine months ago, Mexico lost 2-1 in Estadio Azteca to Honduras. The World Cup was an unattainable dream then.
Coach Miguel Herrera, appointed in October, seemed to be the squad's new emotional catalyst that was so very needed, but the coach had little time to work with his selected 23 players for the World Cup.
Mexico fans should feel happy and even relieved that their squad was able to accomplish so much against formidable opponents. Several players were able to step up and provide performances that were never expected of them: Jose Juan Vazquez, the tiny midfielder from Leon, was able to shut down Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic. Rafael Marquez, at 35 years old, became Mexico's quarterback in defense and was solid against any attacking threat. Javier Hernandez, who was gradually becoming less influential for Mexico, scored his first goal for the team in over a year. I could go on and on about players such as Guillermo Ochoa, Hector Herrera, Andres Guardado and countless others.
What I'm getting at is that El Tri fans should be well-pleased with their team. Sure, it may have been an unjustified penalty call at the end of the match vs. the Netherlands, but Mexico were able to look like the better squad for most of the 90 minutes. Also, don't forget that the Dutch side they dominated was the same team that beat Spain 5-1 in the group stage. I may or may not have made the claim that this technically meant that Mexico was the "best team in the world" for a game.
Fans must also remember that Mexico still has plenty of youth to utilize for the future. It's questionable whether the Mexican Football Federation will continue with Herrera, but he seems to be the right manager at the moment to continue working with the young squad as they prepare for the 2018 World Cup.
Of the 23 players called up for this Cup, 14 will be either 30 years old or younger by the time Russia 2018 begins. That gives plenty of time for Mexico's talent to continue thriving domestically and internationally.
Critics and fans should see this tournament as a fresh start. Herrera has brought a new energy to the team that has not been seen in years. Mexico has plenty of up-and-coming talent that will continue to impress even the most ardent supporters.
I can't help but still feel proud of this Mexican side. They were able to overcome some daunting obstacles in the World Cup and looked confident throughout it. I am of course sad that El Tri were knocked out of the tournament, but I feel content about the future for the squad.