The expected uptick in the Mexican national team's fortunes following Olympic gold at London 2012 never materialized. In fact, things arguably took a turn for the worse with the near disastrous and embarrassing World Cup qualifying display in 2013 and the monumental 7-0 loss to Chile during the Copa America Centenario this past June. Both were historic lows in a period where El Tri was supposed to be hitting new peaks.
But while Mexico's senior national team has maintained its reputation for erratic storylines -- chewing up and spitting out five head coaches between London 2012 and current incumbent Juan Carlos Osorio -- the youth structure and success have remained remarkably consistent.
Part of that can be seen in Olympic players like Marco Bueno and Arturo "Ponchito" Gonzalez, both of whom won the 2011 Under-17 World Cup. Then there's Olympic coach Raul "Potro" Gutierrez, who managed that U17 team in 2011 and has become one of Mexico's most promising younger managers.
Overseeing it all is director of youth national teams at the Mexican Football Federation (FMF) Dennis te Kloese, who has meticulously structured the path forward for Mexico's youngsters.
To understand what Rio 2016 means for Mexico's youth program, ESPN FC caught up with Te Kloese on the phone from Salvador, Brazil, ahead of El Tri's Olympic opener against Germany on Thursday to talk about the Olympic squad, Hirving Lozano's future, the Liga MX's 10/8 rule and more.
Tom Marshall: What should we expect from Mexico at the Rio Games?
Dennis te Kloese: Our current (Olympic) team is pretty dynamic. The base of the group is formed of players from Pachuca and Chivas, which are teams that are very dynamic going forward. In all positions, technically the players are very solid and at this point I think that physically we are also able to compete. We're up against very good teams like Germany and Korea (Republic) in the group stage, but I'm confident that we'll at least compete.
TM: The Liga MX's U17 and U20 leagues began in 2009 and have been cited as a major positive for youth development in Mexico. Is it fair to say that this Olympic squad is the first generation of Mexican players to benefit from the changes?
DTK: I would hope so ... I think [the leagues] greatly benefit the clubs and the young players. Also, in 2009, there was a more formal approach to a youth national team project. I think that combination has worked out very well ... If you add all the competition [the current Olympic players] have had over the last few years internationally and nationally with their teams in the U20 and U17 leagues -- and now most of them are playing prolific roles with their first teams -- I think it makes for an interesting team. But it's football, you never know. Whether you win or lose depends on a lot of things.
TM: Have you had much contact with Mexico coach Juan Carlos Osorio about this Olympic team? Do you think there are players in this squad who are ready to step up to the senior national team?
DTK: I did have some contact, not a lot. I'm more in contact with Santiago Banos, the sporting director for the national team. I'm sure we'll discuss a few things in coming weeks because [Osorio is] going to be here looking at these players up close to see the development of the players within a tournament like this. Going forward, I think for the full national team there are more than enough players that could at some point play a role. Maybe not yet, but maybe next year in different tournaments. I think they are very reliable and professional players.
TM: Is there much interest from European clubs in this group of players?
DTK: There is. I do think that with my role in the federation I try to keep away a little bit, at least until the end of the tournament, because I think they really need to focus on preparing and competing here ... Like in any big event, there are a lot of eyes on them. I think little by little, Mexican players have gained more inroads and a little bit more interest from outside Mexico, which for sure helps these players here, who have a good opportunity (to shine).
TM: There have been rumors surrounding Hirving Lozano's future swirling all summer. Do you think he is ready to move to Europe?
DTK: I do think that with his current situation in Pachuca he's very well settled. Pachuca is a great organization for young players to develop them and get them to a certain point where they can maybe move on to another professional goal, which [is what] they did with Hector Herrera. That might be a good example.
Hirving does very well in the league, he does very well in the national team. He's still a young player -- 1995 born when Olympics are up to 1993 -- but he's pretty mature. He married quite young, he's got a small baby and he's very responsible. His professional attitude will take him a long way. Whatever happens to him after the Olympics or even maybe next year, it's up to the people in Pachuca to evaluate. In the meantime, I'm 100 percent sure he's in very good hands at Pachuca.
[Lozano] is a very good player. He draws attention. He did pretty well coming on as a sub at the Copa America and it will be interesting (at the Olympics). There are a lot of people looking at him and there is more expectation on him as one of the more prominent players in our squad.
TM: Thoughts on the Liga MX's new 10/8 rule?
DTK: I do think that it is a little bit early to judge whether the 10/8 rule is a positive or negative step for us in youth national teams ... I think the intention of the owners and the league is to improve the league, the spectacle and [create a] better product for people going to the stadium. I know the clubs are not working for national teams; they work for their own interests and benefits. In the end, it is our responsibility, like it's always been, to take advantage of the big pool of talent to form national teams and continue the project we have, because it's been very successful and it would be a shame if the quality went down because of fewer opportunities.
TM: Aside from Mexico, which team(s) will be challenging for gold at the Olympics?
DTK: Everybody is looking very closely at Brazil as the home country and the obligation for them is to win the (gold) medal, which they haven't done so far at the Olympics.