SAN DIEGO — When Real Madrid and Chivas de Guadalajara step on the pitch at Qualcomm Stadium to face off in a World Football Challenge tilt on Wednesay night (11 pm ET, ESPN2, ESPN Deportes), los Blancos won’t be the only side with a cadre of World Cup winners.
Los Rojiblancos, who arrived in sunny San Diego on Monday, brought along with them a quartet from Mexico’s U-17 World Cup-winning squad. Bronze ball winner Carlos Fierro and teammates Giovani Casillas, Luis Solorio and José Pablo Tostado could all make their first team debuts against Cristiano Ronaldo & Co.
“I’m extremely pleased and I have to thank everybody at the club that are making our dreams of playing in Primera División come true,” Fierro told the club’s website on Monday. “It’s motivating to play against a team [like Real Madrid]. I’m going to try to play some minutes and take advantage of the opportunity.”
Although the four teenagers were kept away from media following Chivas’ practice session at Qualcomm on Monday night, forward Omar Arellano, one of the veterans on the team, said he can only imagine what must be going through the youngsters’ minds.
“I imagine that being on this tour is motivating them,” said Arellano. “A game [vs. Real Madrid] this important — I imagine it has to be very motivating to have this opportunity. I think they have to take advantage of it, enjoy it, and give it their all.”
According to manager José Luis Real, all four of the world champions could make their debut against Cristiano Ronaldo & Co.
"They'll be on the bench and depending on how the game is going, we'll see if it's covenient or necessary that they play against Real Madrid," said Real in a press conference on Tuesday.
Should Fierro, Casillas, Tostado and Solorio make an impressive debut against los Blancos, it would undoubtedly add to the vast amounts of attention some of the players have been receiving from big European clubs. Fierro, for example, is rumored to be of interest to Barcelona.
“For the youngsters, it would be important if this game opened their doors for opportunities to play abroad,” said defensive stalwart Johnny Magallón. “And why not? Maybe in one more tournament they could be in Europe.”
Whether Real opts to have the young guns debut against Real Madrid or opts to hold off until the Primera Divisón season is underway, the question will be whether or not the Rojiblancos boss is tossing them into the fire too quickly.
But the way the coach sees it, if he inserts them into the match, it's because they're ready.
"Guadalajara's policy, as created by the owners, our bosses, is to play with Mexican players and young talent combined with a strong spine of experienced veterans," Real said. "Therefore, for us, it's not rare to debut young players in the first division. It's not only because they're world champions, but we've been following these U-17 kids and we've been considering for a while having them begin training and looking to for a spot in the [senior squad]."
As for Arellano, he thinks that if his young teammates have the talent and the dedication, then they belong.
“I don’t think there’s an age for a soccer player to debut,” said the forward, who, at the age of 24, is already a seven-year veteran of the Mexican league. “I think that as long as they cut it, as long as they do well and dedicate themselves, while they are ambitious or have a hunger to succeed, then there is no age [restriction].
“I got the chance to make my debut when I was very young, and I think there is no [certain] age. I think that if you have what it takes and have that drive, and the boss considers you’re ready at a certain moment, then go for it. I think [the four] are good players and would deserve [to debut].”