2021 will definitely go down as one of the most memorable years in soccer history. There were many trophy droughts broken this year: Sporting CP winning the Liga NOS, Italy winning the Euros, and even Cruz Azul and Atlas winning league titles in the same year!
Nevertheless, Mexican fans will end the year unhappy as Mexico’s 2021 wasn’t the best. In fact, many will state that 2021 has to be Mexico’s worst year.
Here’s a recap of Mexico’s 2021: the good, the bad, the unforgettable, and many more.
Let’s start off with the bad news. This year made a lot of Mexican fans realize where ‘El Tri’ truly stands soccerwise. Throughout 2021, Mexico maintained a high FIFA ranking. Tata’s men went up to 9th, a place where they remained from August to October. This led to many Mexican pundits to believe that Mexico could be in Pot 1 for the next World Cup.
But after losing back to back finals and failing to play effective soccer, ‘El Tri’ now sit in 14th. Instead of talking about possibly being in Pot 1, the conversation is whether or not Mexico will qualify directly to the World Cup. Now el Tata Martino will be under constant pressure where another humiliating loss could cost his job.
Without a doubt, the unforgettable of Mexico’s 2021 has to be being humiliated by the USMNT. Not once, but three times in the calendar year.
The first strike came when the United States beat Mexico in a 3-2 win to crown themselves the CONCACAF Nations League Champions. Despite that Mexico took the lead twice and were the better team for most of the game, they didn’t take advantage of their opportunities and let the U.S. stay alive to win in in extra time.
The second strike (and most hurtful one in my opinion) came in the Gold Cup final. After losing the Nations League, Tata and his men were under pressure to win the Gold Cup. Although Mexico topped their group and made it to the final, they had been playing unconvincingly. To top things off, Mexico lost the final in extra time (again), but this time against the USMNT’s B team. A last minute Miles Robinson header handed ‘El Tri’s’ second embarrassment.
The third strike and final strike came during the World Cup Qualifiers against, the United States once again. Before the match, Martino had received backlash for constantly calling up the same players who haven’t been performing recently. Fans couldn’t understand why players like Jesus Gallardo and el ‘Chaka’ Rodriguez kept getting called up. All of this negativity grew more after the USMNT beat Mexico in Indianapolis ‘Dos a Cero’ once again. To top things off, Mexico followed this loss with a 2-1 defeat to Canada after goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa’s errors exposed his current form and Mexico’s reality.
Despite this being an unforgettable year, good things did happen this year. The highlight of Mexico’s 2021 has to be their third place finish in the Tokyo Olympics.
Guided by young coach Jaime Lozano, Mexico managed another notable performance by achieving bronze in Men’s soccer. Unlike the senior team, Mexico’s U23 squad played exciting and effective ‘futbol’ to impress everyone around the globe. Their style of play saw them score 17 goals in the competition, and even take the eventual Gold medalists, Brazil, to a penalty shootout.
This Olympic performance saw players like Johan Vasquez, Alexis Vega, and Sebastian Cordova get noticed by European scouts. Fortunately, Vasquez ended up signing with Italian Side Genoa. Moreover, fans began asking for players like Alexis Vega and Sebastian Cordova to get called up to the senior team.
Like everything, there’s always hope that things will get sorted out. This is what ‘El Tri’ fans are left with as things seemed to be getting worse and worse.
Despite that Tata’s player selection hasn’t been the best for WCQs, there is hope that the upcoming generations will change the script. The Bronze Medal and Revelations Cup won by Mexico’s U23 and U20 squads could signify that the future is bright. Let’s not forget that in 2019, Mexico’s U17 squad was minutes away from winning the U17 World Cup.
Players like Alexis Vega, Johan Vasquez, and Santiago Gimenez have been getting opportunities with the senior team. They know that if they continue to perform in their opportunities given, sooner or later they’ll become senior squad regulars.
It also has to be said that Martino has done a good job in convincing dual-nationals to play with Mexico. Youngsters like Efrain Alvarez, Julian Araujo, and David Ochoa have recently snubbed the USMNT to play for El Tri. Other players like Mexican-Canadian starlet Marcelo Flores and Argentine Mexican Luca Martinez Dupuy could be next.
That being said, Mexico’s disastrous year could be reversed in 2022 if Tata plays his cards right.
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