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Brent Latham: Mexico good enough to win the U-20 World Cup

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Mexico U-20 3-1 USA U-20: Mexico takes extra-time win
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Mexico U-20 3-1 USA U-20: Mexico takes extra-time win

Mexico’s U-20s dominated Curacao on Tuesday night in their opener at the CONCACAF U-20 Championship, though El Tri probably didn’t score as many goals as it would have liked.

Sergio Almaguer’s troops took their collective foot off the gas after three first half goals settled things, and cruised to a 3-0 victory over the tiny Caribbean island. It was a win in which the scoreboard was hardly indicative of El Tri’s superiority.

Here are three quick thoughts from El Tri’s U-20 opener:

CONCACAF is getting deeper top to bottom

Curacao was predictably no match for Mexico at home. But the islanders were hardly the pushover they might have been expected to be. Curacao brought strength, speed and a considerable measure of talent to the table, and made things more complicated for Mexico at times than pundits would have predicted coming in.

This could have been a 6-0 or 7-0 result, but the final difference was probably fair, reflecting events on the field. The difference between Mexico -- obviously CONCACAF’s current best at this level -- and minnow Curacao is not as great as some might think.

Already in this tournament, Cuba stepped up and defeated hapless Canada, and Haiti gave the U.S. all it could handle before falling. Though Mexico continues to improve at the top, the gaps in general at this level seem to be closing rather than widening in the region, and the environment becoming all that much more competitive.

El Tri still needs to concentrate

The competitiveness means El Tri can’t afford to jump to conclusions. With a little bad luck, certain teams could spring an upset. The likes of Jamaica or Panama -- one of which El Tri will likely come across in the semifinal round -- are perfectly capable of beating Mexico on an off night.

That means complete concentration is necessary, not only in the Group D capper on Saturday but specifically for that upcoming quarterfinal match next week. The last thing this team needs is to suffer a blip in one qualifying match, and lose the chance to go on to the bigger and better things down the road.

This El Tri U-20 team is good -- good enough to win it all

Mexico’s U-20s play beautiful soccer. They pass, move and combine. They look for offensive impetus all over the field, and supply ideas and energy in search of goals.

In short, they’re more advanced in terms of soccer than all their rivals in Puebla. While other squads resemble a grinding amalgam of young and unpolished parts hoping to find their collective way, this Mexico team is a finished product that is fun to watch. Unlike other U-20 teams on display, Mexico is prone to making one smile and enjoy rather than wince and grimace.

But how good is Mexico? Truly, good enough to win the U-20 World Cup. They may have some issues with size and strength down the road, and a physical team that bodies up properly and slows down the game could prove this group’s kryptonite.

But Mexico’s creativity and passing game are also good enough to undo any opponent on any given day, and give El Tri a legitimate shot at ultimately adding the U-20 crown to the U-23 and U-17 world championships already in the trophy case.

The biggest threat to that mission comes next week. Stay tuned.

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