The Under-17 World Cup kicked off over the weekend with host Brazil and Nigeria fulfilling their roles as favorites.
Team Mexico fans are rooting for a third Under-17 World Cup trophy as Marco Antonio “Chima” Ruiz and his boys prepare for their opening match against Paraguay. L.A. Galaxy youngster Efráin Alvarez leads the Mini-Tri in its effort to follow in the big footsteps of their 2005 and 2011 predecessors.
“Chima” will rely on the MLS prodigy to provide leadership on offense, but he will also be counting on the Pachuca midfield duo of Eugenio Pizzuto and Bruce El-Mesmari. There are four Tuzos products on the roster, and four others who call Chivas home, the most from any Liga MX team.
Paraguay is led by scorer/playmaker Fernando Ovelar, a 15-year-old who last year became the youngest player ever to score in the Paraguayan first division. The responsibility of marking
Ovelar will fall on Mexico’s back four of José Ruiz (Chivas), Rafael Martínez (Atlas), Jesús Gómez (Atlas) and Emilio Lara (América). In goal is Arturo Delgado, from the Tigres academy.
Santiago Muñoz (Santos) is expected to pair up with Alvarez on the front line, although Israel Luna (Pachuca) and Luis Puente (Chivas) could also see opportunities.
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Mexico is in a difficult group along with Italy and the Solomon Islands. The Mini-Tri plays Paraguay on Monday afternoon, Italy on Thursday and the Solomon Islands on Sunday. “Chima” and the boys will advance out of Group F if they finish in first or second place. Four third-place teams will also advance to the Round of 16 which will begin on Nov. 5.
Host Brazil and five-time champion Nigeria entered the Cup as favorites. Brazil opened the tournament with a 4-1 rout of Canada in Group A while Nigeria manhandled Hungary 4-2 in Group B.
Mexico has won the World Cup in this category twice, the first time in 2005 with Jesús Ramírez as coach. That team was led by Gio dos Santos, Carlos Vela and Héctor Moreno. The Mini-Tri also won as hosts of the World Cup in 2011, with Raúl Gutiérrez in charge. Mexico also finished as runner-up (to Nigeria) at the 2013 World Cup.
Also in Brazil representing Mexico is referee Adonai Escobedo.