- The Munoz-Alvarez link-up is one of El Tri’s valuable weapons
- Both understand each other very well on and off the pitch
- They will be key in the quarter-final duel against Korea Republic
“We’ve both got that United States thing and I feel as if I’ve got a brother in there. We’re there for each other.”
The “brother” that Mexico forward Santiago Munoz is referring to is team-mate Efrain Alvarez, and the “United States thing” is the fact that they are the only two members of Mexico’s 21-man squad born north of the border. Since meeting in the national team set-up and finding that they have something in common, the two have formed a solid bond.
Munoz’s parents live in El Paso, Texas, a few miles from the border, while Alvarez’s are based in Los Angeles, California.
“We’re in a different situation and we talk about it, though we are aware that in this squad we’re all equal,” Munoz told FIFA.com. The special chemistry between the two is clear for all to see, however.
“We’re friends and we’re always together, messing about,” said Alvarez, who has brought his console to play FIFA along with him. “Efrain’s a joker. He drives me mad,” laughed Munoz. “I’m better than him, though.”
Efrain is a talented player. We have to work as a team so that he can deliver in attack. As for Santiago, I don’t want my No.9s just in the box and nowhere else. I like them to come out and play, to create, shield the ball and have that presence in the box too.
Totally in tune
The fraternal bond between the two extends to the pitch. “We understand each other very well during games,” said Munoz, who plays for Santos Laguna and described his strengths as one-on-ones, getting past defenders and finishing.
“We know how to play together. He helps me and I help him. We help each other,” explained Alvarez, an attacking midfielder who has been described by none other than Los Angeles Galaxy team-mate Zlatan Ibrahimovic as the biggest talent in MLS.
The Munoz-Alvarez partnership caused Japan untold problems in the last 16, and Korea Republic will need to find a way of combating it if they are to avoid the same difficulties in Sunday’s quarter-final.
“They understand each other very well because of the way they play. They complement each other,” said Mexico coach Marco Ruiz. “They also work well together in winning the ball back.”
So what is the reason behind their telepathic understanding? “He is fantastically gifted. He puts the ball right where you want it,” said Munoz. “And I make all the movements, the runs in behind defenders. I’m always there to give him an outlet.”
Mexico’s hopes of leaving Brazil with their third U-17 world title rest on the pair and on a team that Ruiz describes as being very dangerous when it clicks.
“We’re linking up well,” said Alvarez. “Brother” Santiago went a step further: “We’ve said right from the start that we can achieve big things. Now we’re going for the title.”