Mexico's Olympic team should fight to defend the gold medal at Rio 2016

Winning Olympic gold against Brazil at London 2012 inside a packed Wembley Stadium is a memory that will forever be etched into the minds and hearts of Mexico fans. It was arguably Mexican football's greatest achievement.

The time to defend the Olympic gold at Rio 2016 has finally arrived and there are reasons to be optimistic that there could be more success for Mexico in Brazil.

Here's what you need to know about Mexico's Olympic men's football team:

Who and when does Mexico play

El Tri's Group C opener couldn't be much more difficult; the team faces Germany on Thursday (Aug. 4) in Salvador, one day before the opening ceremony.

While Mexico was unable to call up star under-23 player Jesus "Tecatito" Corona (Porto), Germany coach Horst Hrubesch will be without the likes of Julian Draxler, Joshua Kimmich, Emre Can and Bernd Leno.

Nevertheless, Germany represents an early litmus test for Mexico and its chances of a medal. The battle in central midfield between Germany's overage duo Lars Bender (Bayer Leverkusen) and Sven Bender (Borussia Dortmund) and Mexico youngsters Erick Gutierrez and Victor Guzman (or Michael Perez) will be especially intriguing and likely the key to the match.

After that, Mexico should cruise past Fiji on Sunday (Aug. 7) and wrap up group play with what could be a crunch game against Korea Republic on Aug. 10 in Brasilia.

What to expect tactically

Mexico coach Raul "Potro" Gutierrez has experimented with 4-2-3-1 and 4-4-2 formations in the build-up to the Olympics, although it seems like the latter will be chosen if we are to read between the lines of what has come out of the camp.

This Mexico team shows the same traits we have come to expect from El Tri youth outfits over recent years: hard-working, technically gifted and dynamic. The side likes to have the ball, move it forward vertically and open the pitch up when in possession.

Players to watch

Pachuca's speedy winger Hirving Lozano is garnering most of the headlines in connection to a potential move to Manchester United. Lozano, 21, enters the competition a fully-fledged and in-form international player. He's the pick of Mexico's bunch.

But it'd be a mistake to just talk about Lozano. Pachuca teammate Gutierrez possesses an excellent left foot and will look to dictate play from central midfield with his passing and vision. On the right wing, Rodolfo Pizarro -- another Pachuca player -- is intelligent and versatile. If Mexico's 4-4-2 isn't working, Pizarro will be moved inside as a No. 10, likely with Marco Bueno coming off and winger Carlos Cisneros brought on.

The central defensive partnership is also exciting; Chivas' Carlos Salcedo is a rock and the leader of the line, while 19-year-old Cesar Montes is a physically imposing defender who is also comfortable with the ball at his feet and looks likely to have a long future with the national team.


There is definitely a sense of cohesion when Mexico plays in youth tournaments. Liga MX clubs usually allow the federation to take players to youth tournaments all over the world. The result is that these players are well-travelled, know each other and are all well-drilled in the program's style of play. Not many teams in this Olympic tournament can say the same.

The choice of overage players has also been smart. Oribe Peralta offers leadership and the experience of winning gold at London 2012 up front; Alfredo Talavera is arguably Mexico's best goalkeeper at any level; and Jorge Torres Nilo is one of El Tri's best left-backs and adds some physicality.


If Mexico plays a 4-4-2, there is some doubt about whether the striker to accompany Peralta is of the required standard. Bueno's club career has never taken off, while Erick "Cubo" Torres is in a slump at present, with the Olympic squad a welcome relief from his woes at Houston Dynamo.

There are also worries in the midfield; if Gutierrez sticks with only two central players, Mexico could get overrun down the middle, especially when it loses possession and faces fast counter-attacking teams. In the holding role, Guzman and Perez have both shown potential, but neither are among the best players in this Olympic squad.

Realistic expectation

Mexico is as distant as eighth favorite to win back-to-back Olympic gold on some sites. While Olympic predictions are always difficult, Mexico should be closer to the medal mix than that, considering the group of players Gutierrez has and the preparation and importance the event holds for Mexican football.

Mexico should get out of the group, although Korea Republic shouldn't be underestimated. From there, a medal is a realistic possibility. The favorite, however, is Neymar-led Brazil at home.

Projected XI

Talavera; Javier Jose Abella, Montes, Salcedo, Torres Nilo; Pizarro, Guzman, Gutierrez, Lozano; Bueno, Peralta.

The starting XI should be fairly settled, but there are still a few positions that may be up for grabs. Morelia's 19-year-old Erick Aguirre could challenge Abella at right-back, Perez may be considered a better defensive option than Guzman in the holding role and Torres will try to edge Bueno out upfront. If Gutierrez plays a 4-2-3-1, Cisneros will start and Bueno will be left out.