A Mexican’s World Cup Primer

No, it has nothing to do with Tequila shots or other such truck but rather a historical retrospective.

Mexicans get soccer fed to us in our baby bottles

I made this statement to an American friend a couple of years ago. Many will say that it is a generalization and perhaps be insulted by it. A Mexican-American chap who heard it certainly was and let it be known just how offended he was. The fact that he neither was born and spent most of his childhood living in México made his overreaction a little bit less credible.

My native land hosted the 1986 World Cup and I remember it vividly. Anyone remember the borderline offensive mascot, Pique?

[found the pic at:  http://degenerasian.blogspot.com/]

The memories are bittersweet because while Manuel Negrete’s strike made an indelible impression on my mind, the loss against ze Germans in the quarterfinals broke my young Tri-loving heart.

Over the years, we moved to America and my interest in soccer waned as it had to compete with American football, baseball and basketball. Yet every four years I was drawn to the world’s biggest sporting event, The World Cup. I have soaked in every WC since ’86, and followed especially close those in which my beloved Tri took part of. (All of them since ’86 except for Italy ’90).

I pined in ’94 to go watch them live but alas it was not to be. We are but 2 weeks away from the start of South Africa 2010 and like many of my compatriots living in all corners of the world, I am giddy with excitement.

Yet this anticipation is tempered by the ghost of México in World Cups past. Like many Mexicans I take a hopeful pessimism approach into each World Cup. Yes, the squad is a solid one with great potential but let us not set our sights too high.  Otherwise we will be disappointed if El Tri comes crashing down like cadet Juan Escutia at the Battle of Chapultepec.

Methinks I just committed a cardinal sin, Escutia is almost as untouchable as the fictitious (at best) and demonic (at worst) Guadalupana (below).

Here’s the rundown of what has transpired before a generation:

México 1986
El Tri reaches the quarterfinals and goes toe-to-toe with the Germans. The ref annulled a potential match-winning score by “El Abuelo” Cruz because of a phantom foul “committed” by one of Cruz’ teammates. The match ended in a scoreless draw and went into a penalty kick shootout, in which my countrymen failed miserably.

USA 1994
Once again El Tri advances past the group stage despite being seeded in the “Group of Death”. They go up against the Italians and give them a hell of a game which results in a 1-1 draw. In the Round of 16 they face a then highly-touted Bulgaria featuring all-time great Hristo Stoichkov. After regulation and 2 extra times, the game ends in a 1-1 draw and on to penalties we go (uh oh). Again, my paisanos show the world that they can’t take penalty kicks and succumb to the Bulgarians.

France 1998
Once again, México finds itself in a tough group (Netherlands, Belgium, South Korea) yet somehow claw their way into the Round of 16. In no small part due to the heroics of El Matador, Luis Hernández (below).

In the Round of 16, México faces a tough test against Germany. El Tri gives the Krauts all they can handle and take a 1-0 lead into the second half. Germany’s overwhelming talent remembers that they are Germans and Mexico’s back line remembers that it is tradition to falter in key moments, result? Germany wins 2-1. This time there were no penalty kicks but for Mexique there was heartbreak. Pinche Klinsmann

Korea-Japan 2002
México again gets Italy in the group stage and like in 1994 plays them to a 1-1 tie. Somehow México wins the group and, of course, advances to the Round of 16. There they will face the Norteamericanos. I whooped it up when I realized that this was going to be the case. If there is one thing us Mexicans do better than the Americans, it is fútbol. Most of México looked forward to jamming our neighbors to the North on such a world stage, meanwhile most of America yawned.

México wins right? Small revenge for the Mexican-American War, right? WRONG!!!!!! In perhaps the most demoralizing defeat in Mexican history since the Battle of Chapultepec, Team USA outplays El Tri on their way to a 2-0 victory and Landon Donovan (below driving the stake) initiates his reign as the most hated Yankee in México.

The worst part of this spectacle was the behavior of my countrymen after it had hit them that they were going to lose this match. In frustration, they committed flagrant foul after flagrant foul on the Americans. The crown jewel was Mexican captain Rafa Márquez’ horrific assault on Cobi Jones. The karate kick earned Márquez a straight red card. That day I was ashamed to be Mexican, not because of the loss but because of the classlessness showed by the Mexican players.

Germany 2006
México actually is seeded into a weak group yet struggles to advance to the Round of 16. There they will go up against mighty Argentina. Naturally, my countrymen draw first blood giving a nation hope. Then Argentina’s Hernán Crespo scores the goal that equalizes and eventually sends the game into extra time, making him the 2nd most hated Hernán C. in Mexiko. Here’s #1,

I don’t know why Cortés gets a bum rap, if not for him we’d still be ripping out hearts from the chests of POWs.

As extra time unfurled, the dread of inevitability and history made its dwelling in the pit of my stomach. This time, that inevitability would be manifested in the person of Argentine midfielder Maxi Rodriguez who booted one of the prettiest goals in the tournament. Too bad it came at the expense of El Tri. México loses 2-1.

As previously stated, this goal made him the most reviled Maximilian in México since Maximilian I.  Personally it left me speechless and breathless for a few minutes, punch-in-the-gut didn’t begin to describe it the horrible sensation.

All that said, what do I expect of El Tri in South Africa? Not much but a microcosm of the roller coaster ride that is my native land’s turbulent histor and the ethos it has birthed, a hopeful pessimism.

More specifically, this hopeful pessimism leads me to conclude that El Tri will advance past the group stage (hopeful) but bow out in the knockout rounds. If history is any indicator, México will fall so in a most emotionally crushing manner (pessimism).  I uneagerly await what horrors will befall El Tricolor in South Africa.

If you want a more rational preview from an impartial observer, here it is:

2010 World Cup Preview Group A: Mexico

3 Responses to A Mexican’s World Cup Primer

  1. Degenerasian says:

    I believe Mexico will do well at this World Cup. Fairly simple group, and played at altitude! Yes those losses were heartbreakers but it was an achivement to get there. Last World Cup I thought Argentina would kill you, but you took them to extra time!

    • Laz says:

      I hope you’re right, my best case scenario is them making it at least to the semis. They need a lot of breaks for that to happen but one can hope.

      Thanks for dropping by

  2. Pingback: One Mexican’s World Cup Primer | goutlonghorns.com

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