Mexico can start dreaming about 2018 after Carlos Vela’s big return

It was a thing of beauty. After three years of a weird and silly self-imposed exile, Carlos Vela was back in action, wearing his trusty number 11 stamped on the back of a bright green Mexico jersey.

He must have felt the pressure. After all, Mexican fans had grown tired of Vela’s cryptic explanations for his absence. His “I’m just not ready,” his “I don’t feel comfortable” … it all sounded not only rather empty but irresponsible.

Vela’s long temper tantrum had put Mexico’s national team in an absurd situation. How many teams that played in the World Cup had to do so without their best player, a guy who decided to skip the tournament not due to injury or disciplinary suspension but merely because, hell, he just didn’t feel like it? So yes, the pressure was on.

But Vela’s inspired reply cast all doubts aside. Within the first 10 minutes of the match against the Dutch, he had already scored a gorgeous goal, a long bending kick that closed one bizarre chapter in Mexico’s really bizarre footballing history only to open a new one. Oh, and how promising it is.

For the longest time, Mexico has been lacking attacking options. Even though ours is the land that produced the great Hugo Sánchez, Mexico hasn’t been known for its attacking prowess, let alone any kind of real versatility.

Yet that’s exactly what the team has now. Miguel Herrera has plenty of men to choose from, and they all have different virtues and abilities. There’s Raul Jiménez, the Atlético de Madrid forward: strong, tall and gifted. Or Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez, an indefatigable and energetic poacher. Add Giovani Dos Santos, a man more adept at playing a bit behind the front line, fast and lethal. Or what about Oribe Peralta, the guy who destroyed Brazil in London’s Olympic final? And of course there’s Vela, who needs no introduction.

If you’re a Mexican fan and you look at all these options, you’ll find good reasons to be optimistic. When you imagine all these forwards playing in synchronicity with Héctor Herrera, Jonathan Dos Santos, José Jaun “Gallito” Vázquez, Andrés Guardado, Jesús Manuel “Tecatito” Corona and the like, well, you start feeling giddy.

This is, by far, the most gifted and talented generation Mexican soccer has ever had. The potential was in full display in Amsterdam. When does the 2018 World Cup start?