Mexico's complicated mission: Find the best XI

Posted by David Faitelson

The task: to find the 11 best Mexican soccer players. Although it may seem like a simple one, it is not. As of today, Mexico undoubtedly has soccer talent, but it has that talent and has invested it toward the future. The 2005 and 2011 FIFA under-17 world champions still need to grow up. The 2012 Olympic champions will have to mature. Coach "El Chepo" de la Torre is seeking a national team that can compete today with the best in the world. The harsh reality is that he doesn't have it.

Finding 11 Mexicans who play soccer well may sound like a simple mission. It is not. Definitely, it is not.

In a country where, historically, soccer talent is scarce, it shouldn't be so hard to find the 11 best Mexican soccer players to build a national team. But when that talent is insufficient, when one must depend on cycles, on situations off the field, on indecision at the club level, on interests that ruin the long-term plans, then one must get back to the grindstone, rummage, search everywhere in order to have a competitive group on the pitch at the end of the day.

- Una misión complicada ... (ESPNdeportes.com)

The numbers say it all: With the call-ups of Cirilo Saucedo, Fernando Arce and Raul Jimenez, Jose Manuel de la Torre tallied 61 players called up by the halfway point to Brazil 2014. Up to now, Chepo has enlisted 37 players for World Cup qualifying, which kicks off its final round, the hexagonal, on Wednesday against Jamaica at Estadio Azteca.

Two examples of the highest level, from the top of the soccer world, can show us where the numbers for Mexico are: Spain, reigning world and European champions, used only 29 players in 2010 World Cup qualifying, and Holland, World Cup runner-up, required only 25 to get to South Africa. Spain and Holland, two powerhouses of international soccer that generate great talent, knew what they had and what they needed in order to yield results on the field.

Chepo, on the other hand, depends on the often uncertain level of the local league and scarcely half a dozen, maybe a bit more, Mexicans who play in the European leagues. Considering that, his quest is no easy task.

However, Chepo and his coaching staff are, to a certain extent, blessed. Blessed by a generation that last year included the greatest result ever reached in Mexican soccer, a gold medal at the Olympic Games, a generation that is exporting its talent to another level -- already three have gone to play in Europe with Reyes, Herrera and Aquino -- and a generation that apparently has a different mentality when it comes to playing on the field and how to behave off it.

The people, Mexican soccer fans have an urgent need, are desperate for results. For many years they have been seeking the chance of a national team that competes at the highest international level, that stands firm with a plan, with strength and personality in a World Cup, and that brings glory to match its great passion. But Mexico has a team for the future. Perhaps it won't be ready for Brazil 2014, where those players will continue to learn and mature. Perhaps the best opportunities will come into focus in the coming years, where Olympic gold will be remembered as a precedent on the road to further growth and glory.

David Faitelson is one of Mexico's most popular sports journalists, having worked for TV Azteca before joining ESPN. He is based in Los Angele, and co-hosts "NaciónESPN," ESPN Deportes' version of "SportsNation."

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