Can Mexico win a medal in London? 

July, 24, 2012

Finally, on Thursday, after months of anticipation and analysis, Mexico will play an Olympic soccer match for the first time since 2004.

The years after that Olympic match have proved vital in the history of Mexican soccer. Failure to advance to the quarterfinals in 2004, and then embarrassingly missing out on the 2008 Olympics, along with other failures at the youth level, forced a serious re-examination by the FMF on how youth teams would be assembled.

Heavy emphasis was put on having young players participate in countless national team games in order to gain the necessary experience to compete in international tournaments. Players would no longer be expected to wilt under intense pressure because they already would have played top competition throughout their young lives. Top players would be identified at a very early age, and their skills would be nurtured to fit the national-team structure. Such coordination was almost unheard of 10 years ago.

Now, Mexico is a force at every youth level, and it's not so far-fetched to think that previous Olympic failures heavily contributed to this boon. Perhaps the advances of the past two years never would have occurred, or perhaps would have occurred at a much slower pace.

The FMF, inspired by all of the recent success, has famously increased the stakes by boldly predicting El Tri could win a medal at the Games, a goal that would have seemed unattainable even four years ago.

There will be a strong sentiment that anything less than a medal will be a disappointment, which is probably a bit harsh. Although simply qualifying hardly should be seen as a remarkable achievement, either, medaling was always overly ambitious.