Carlos Vela's place with El Tri 

January, 10, 2013
01/10/13
9:55
AM ET

Mexico fans' first real taste of Carlos Vela came back in 2005, when he headed in the opening goal in the U-17 World Cup final victory against Brazil in Peru. As the tournament's highest scorer, Vela instantly became a household name at age 16. Then he disappeared over to Europe to join Arsenal.

The lingering perception since then is that Vela hasn't lived up to the huge hype that weighed on his young shoulders. But that is somewhat unfair to the 23-year-old, whose career at the very top is really only beginning. More important for the national team, Vela is showing signs that he, at least as much as any other Mexican player out there, can be the difference at Brazil 2014.

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