‘El ya merito’. Mexican futbol fans’ most dreaded phrase. An expression of ‘we almost made it’, of ‘next time we’ll win it’, of ‘not again’, of ‘but it was only the USA’, of ‘Tevez was offside’, of ‘no era penal’, of ‘we used our bench’. Most importantly, it is an expression of ‘the acceptance to our tricolor’s repeated failures’.
‘El ya merito’ tells the story of the perpetual sentiment that Mexico will never reach their most desired objectives, let it be in World Cups or Copa Americas. Removing youth teams and the 1999 Confederations Cup (which was held in Mexico) from the scenario, ‘el tri’ has subsisted through the last three decades through many different rosters, but always belittled by that dreaded phrase.
As the match against Chile for the quarterfinals of the Copa America Centenario approaches, there is a lot of excitement and confidence that Juan Carlos Osorio’s team will go through into the semifinals. In fact, support is so strong that fans believe Mexico can even defeat Colombia to reach the final; and then, doubts and fear of the dreaded phrase begin to cloud that mood.
If the tournament hosts a much dreamed final between Mexico and Argentina, does ‘el tri’ have the talent necessary to defeat a team inundated with players in the caliber of Lionel Messi, Sergio Aguero, or Javier Mascherano? Will Mexico be able to perform using their own style without succumbing to a style focused on defending Argentina’s nasty offense? Or will Mexico play the game of their lives only to lose in the final minutes which would only extend the history of the ‘el ya merito’?
This Copa America Centenario must mark a change in the book of that dreaded phrase. There is no room for more failures, or for more stories of agonizing defeat. Mexico has arguably the best talent in their history. Stadiums are continually filled to their maximum in support of a home team which is not really home. There is not a single player in that roster who has not won a professional title. And most of all, ‘el tri’ is at a point in their history where their mentality must be that of a world-power, and not of a team confortable with only reaching the top-four in the Copa America, or the much desired fifth-game in World Cups.
The time has arrived for the Mexican national team to take a great leap forward and begin acting like a top team in the world of football. While longing from the great successes of teams like Argentina is valuable for the future of the team, it is time to halt the mentality that Mexico is a subordinate to the kings of soccer.