Mexico hopes to match Olympic gold in Confed Cup
MEXICO CITY (AP)
Mexico won the gold medal at the London Olympics, and it will use the same base of young players to make an impression at the Confederations Cup.
Mexico last played in the event in Germany in 2005, becoming one of the surprise teams of the tournament by reaching the semifinals.
Mexico opens against Italy on Sunday in Rio's newly remodeled Maracana Stadium, and it will rely on eight key players who were part of the squad that defeated Brazil in the Olympic final.
''Mexico has enough strength to beat anyone at any venue, and we hope that can happen in the Confederations Cup,'' Mexico coach Jose Manuel De la Torre said. ''Many didn't think that Mexico could win a medal in London, and in the event we pulled off a big surprise.''
The medal was the first in football for Mexico at the Olympics.
The Olympic team was coached by assistant Luis Fernando Tena, but De la Torre is hoping to have the same success with his lucky eight group of young players: Jesus Corona, Carlos Salcido, Hiram Mier, Hector Herrera, Giovani Dos Santos, Javier Aquino, Raul Jimenez and Diego Reyes.
One important piece will be missing. Oribe Peralta, who scored four goals in six games at the Olympics, will miss the Confederations Cup with an injured right thigh muscle.
''We're not going to the tournament with the attitude of just be happy to be there,'' De la Torre said. ''I always say to the guys, we really think we can win this thing.''
After opening against Italy, Mexico faces host Brazil and then closes group play against Japan. The other four-team group includes World Cup champion Spain, Uruguay, Tahiti and Nigeria. The top two in each group advance to the semifinals.
''Ours is a tough group for sure, but so is the other one,'' Mexican Football Federation president Justino Compean said. ''We're talking about the best teams in the world.''
The key player for Mexico will be Manchester United striker Javier ''Chicharito'' Hernandez.
Hernandez lost his starting job this season with United, but still scored 18 goals. He has 50 in three seasons in England and has scored 32 goals in 47 games with the national team.
In addition to Hernandez, Mexico will count on midfielder Andres Guardado, who plays at Valencia, and Dos Santos, a forward at Mallorca.
The big absence will be forward Carlos Vela of Spanish club Real Sociedad. De la Torre left him off the team, saying he was not ''totally dedicated'' to the national team.
Vela and De la Torre met in Madrid in May, and the coach decided the player's priorities were elsewhere.
In 2010, Vela was one of two players suspended from the national team for six months following a party after an international friendly against Colombia in Monterrey, Mexico. The incident involved a late-night party with unidentified women.
''I have always said that to win, you need everyone,'' De la Torre said. ''But you can lose having one guy who is not dedicated to doing the job.''