Hugo Sanchez has plenty of reasons to be cheerful these days. After steering his side to a promising third place at the recent Copa America Venezuela 2007, the flamboyant Mexico coach can now take satisfaction from the fact that El Tri's recent impressive form has shot them back into the world's top ten.
|Mexico's coach Hugo Sanchez shows his medal after beating Uruguay in the third place match|
The latest FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking saw the men in green zoom 16 places up the chart into tenth, putting them ahead of habitual high-fliers such as Czech Republic and England, who are now immediately behind them. In the process, the Mexicans also made up for their recent 2007 CONCACAF Gold Cup final defeat to deadly rivals USA by reclaiming top spot in the confederation, the Stars and Stripes now trailing behind them in 14th.
In actual fact, Mexico's speedy ascent has merely seen them return to the lofty position they have become accustomed to holding over the last few years. The Aztecas were an ever-present in the top ten between November 2001 and June 2006, and it was this sustained excellence that saw them go into the draw for the 2006 FIFA World Cup Germany ™ as one of the eight seeded teams.
Their German jaunt ended all too early, however, causing the Mexicans to slide to 14th place in June 2006 and then 18th the following month. The downturn in Tricolor fortunes continued through to last month when they slipped to 26th spot, their lowest ever position since the FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking came into being.
Inspired no doubt by the need to stop the rot, Hugo Sanchez's charges turned in superb performances at the two tournaments they took part in recently. After finishing runners-up in the Gold Cup, they claimed another top three finish at the Copa America, seeing off eventual winners Brazil 2-0 in the group phase and losing only once, to runners-up Argentina in the semi-finals.
Sanchez's side won eight of the 12 games they contested in that hectic period, drawing one and losing the remaining three. In doing so they scored 20 goals and conceded only ten, reaching their peak in the 6-0 Copa America quarter-final reverse of Paraguay, their biggest ever win outside the CONCACAF region.
A blend of attractive football and good results has seen the Mexicans storm back into the world elite. Sanchez's task now is to break new ground and take them even higher.