Saturday, 21 June 2014

World Cup update – Mexico's hopes still alive

MÉRIDA, YUCATÁN – The first full week of competition in the world cup is drawing to a close, and what a week it has been. Some big names have already fallen; who would have thought that Spain would already be out of contention? They’ll be able to share a flight back to Europe with the English, who, with two losses so far are also out of the running.

Last Saturday saw the victory of Italy 2 – 1 over England; not entirely a surprise since the heat and humidity in Manaus certainly did not suit the English. A bigger shock perhaps was the Costa Rican team’s victory of 3 – 1 against Uruguay; certainly a great disappointment for the South Americans, and a huge source of pride for the ‘Ticos’. Sunday saw victories by France and Argentina, while Monday’s big news was the crushing 4 – 0 defeat of Portugal by Germany. Also on Monday, in their first appearance, the USA beat Ghana 2 – 1.

Man of the Match Guillermo Ochoa saves another attempt at a goal by Brazil (Photo credit FIFA)

On Tuesday it was all about Mexico, with the much anticipated match between ‘El Tri’ and the Brazilian side. While hoping for the best, the game against the host country, surrounded by local supporters was always slated to be Mexico’s biggest challenge in the group stage. From the start however, the Mexican team looked energized and ready to fight, and fight they did, right up to the final whistle. In the end, neither team scored any goals, resulting in a 0 – 0 draw; a result with which the Mexican team and fans were justifiably happy; the Brazilians not so much, having expected a fairly easy victory. ‘Man of the Match’ was Mexico’s goalkeeper, Guillermo Ochoa; instantly canonized as the great protector of Mexico’s hopes in the tournament. The pressure will definitely be on him in Mexico’s next appearance.

Neymar battles with Paul Aguilar in the game between Mexico and Brazil (Photo credit FIFA)

Wednesday saw Netherlands beat Australia 3 – 2; and while a victory for Netherlands, it was a surprisingly small one; having previously beaten Spain 5 – 1. The reason became obvious later in the day, when Chile beat Spain 2 – 0, sending Spain crashing out of the tournament. It seems that rather than the Netherlands being exceptionally strong, it was the Spanish who were exceptionally weak; potentially good news for Mexico, who may well meet Netherlands in the second round.

On Thursday, England, famous for being the team that promises so much, but in the end, never fails to disappoint, suffered its second defeat of the tournament, losing 2 – 1 to Uruguay, which combined with Friday’s surprise result of Costa Rica beating Italy 1 – 0 in the same group, provided the English team with its ticket back to London.

Suarez celebrates scoring the opener in the 39th minute against England (Photo credit FIFA)

It’s really turning into a cup full of surprises, with the outstanding teams of the first week including Costa Rica, Chile, Colombia, and, yes, Mexico.

In progress at time of going to press on Saturday we have Argentina against Iran; which at half time is a surprising 0 – 0; could another shock be on the way? This afternoon will see Germany play Ghana, while Sunday will see the USA face Portugal at 5pm Mexican time.

Monday will see Mexico’s third appearance in the group stages, in a game against Croatia; Mexico needs to win or draw in order to proceed to a second round match against Netherlands or Chile. The game on Monday will be at 3pm Mexican time, so if you venture into the streets midafternoon and wonder if, due to the lack of anyone around, there has been a small nuclear holocaust, don’t worry, it will just be that the entire country is watching ‘El Tri’ and willing them to victory.  You’ll find the people in the bars, cantinas, restaurants, and anywhere there is a TV.

Saint Guillermo

For the schedules, groups, and matches in the upcoming World Cup, see here:

Saturday, 14 June 2014

World Cup begins – Mexico wins first match

MÉRIDA, YUCATÁN – So, the world cup has started. In case you missed it, the opening ceremony was last Thursday, featuring dancing trees, and the official World Cup song “We Are One” performed by Pitbull, Claudia Leitte and a will she / won’t she (she did…) appearance by Jennifer Lopez. There’s a short video here: The pitch was then cleared in short order for the opening match of the competition; hosts Brazil against Croatia. The result was a fairly predictable win for Brazil, 3-1, with the only Croatian goal being an ‘own goal’ by Marcelo from the Brazilian team, and coming as it did, only 11 minutes into the game, it was not an auspicious beginning for the home team. They recovered, and the spectators were happy with the result; somehow the team did not look as convincing as one would have expected though, and, maybe, some surprises are on the way.

Friday was the first big day of competition, and with it, Mexico’s debut game against Cameroon. Although their opponents were not the toughest, the Mexican team was up against awful weather (constant heavy rain) and a referee who was clearly on the side of Cameroon. Despite this, and despite having two goals disallowed early in the game, Mexico’s star player Oribe Peralta scored the only valid goal of the match, which ended in a win, 1-0 for Mexico. Giovanni dos Santos put in a good performance and goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa saved an excellent shot by Cameroon, which would have tied the game if it had got through. Unfortunately the Mexican team have the habit of slowing down once they have a lead, however slim, and this behavior exhibited itself again yesterday; once they had the 1-0 lead, they as good as gave up trying to score any more; a dangerous tactic, since a 1-0 lead can quickly vanish. However a win is a win, and we hope that for their next game against Brazil (sure to be a much tougher opponent) on Tuesday, the Mexican team will return refreshed and ready to fight.

Mexico forward Oribe Peralta celebrates scoring the game-winning goal for El Tri in the 61st minute (Credit FIFA)

The big news on Friday was the stunning defeat of Spain by Netherlands. In a repeat of the 2010 world cup final (won of course by Spain) the two European rivals faced each other in their opening game of the 2014 tournament, and while both teams are strong, Spain was easily the favorite to win. From the start however, Spain seemed to be playing a different game; and their goalkeeper was definitely having a bad day. The end result of 5-1 to Netherlands was by far the biggest story of the tournament so far, and has been called a massacre by newspapers in Spain today. The last time Spain conceded at least 5 goals was in 1963, when they were defeated in Madrid 6-2 by Scotland!

 De Vrij's headed goal gave the Dutch a 3-1 lead in the 65th minute (Credit Fifa)

The day ended with a 3-1 win by Chile over Australia; since Australia is better known for cricket, rugby, and beer, not exactly a surprise.

Saturday sees games between Colombia and Greece (3-0 to Colombia at press time); Uruguay and Costa Rica; what is likely to be an exciting game between England and Italy; and Cote d’Ivoire and Japan, while Sunday will see the first appearances by top teams France and Argentina. Germany, Portugal, and the USA all make their debuts on Monday.

Here in Mexico, we will be looking forward to Tuesday’s game against Brazil, which will be at 2pm Mexican time in the northern Brazilian city of Fortaleza. If you’re not planning to watch the game, it will be an excellent opportunity to go to the bank, pay your electricity bill, or other such tasks, since no one else will be there! If you are planning to watch, we’ll be waiting to hear you join the screams of VIVA MEXICO and GOOOOOOOOOLLLLLL!!! Here’s some music to get you in the mood:

For the schedules, groups, and matches in the upcoming World Cup, see here:

Wednesday, 4 June 2014

Time for football!

MÉRIDA, YUCATÁN – It’s time for football. For our friends from north of the border, I should clarify that we mean “football”, not “American football”. In fact, north of the border friends, did you know that the USA has a pretty good national football (i.e. soccer) team, which has recently been going from strength to strength under manager Juergen Klinsmann?

The 2014 football world cup begins on Thursday, June 12th, and the USA, along with Mexico and 30 other nations, will be competing. Unfortunately neither Mexico nor the USA has a realistic chance of bringing the cup home; we can dream however, and this writer will be enthusiastically supporting Mexico all the way.

We’re hoping to see our local readers in Mérida out and about supporting Mexico, the USA, or their choice of the other competing teams.

The Mexican national team’s greatest moment in recent years was their victory at the 2012 Olympic football tournament in London, where a squad composed mainly of the under 23 year old team beat favorites Brazil 2-1 in a thrilling game with an unexpected result.  

Since then however, the Mexican side has been lackluster at best; in recent months though there has been something of an improvement under new manager Miguel Herrera; and last week, in their final game on Mexican soil before the world cup, Mexico handily beat Israel 3-0 at Estadio Azteca in Mexico City. Although not a tough opponent by any means, it was a boost to the home team’s morale to leave the country on a high note.

Last Saturday’s friendly game against Ecuador in Dallas, TX resulted in a 3-1 victory for El Tri (as the Mexican team is commonly known), although a potentially problematic setback was the injury to star player Luis Montes, who will now not play in Brazil.

Tuesday’s friendly game against Bosnia in Chicago was a poor showing by Mexico, ending in a 1-0 loss to Bosnia Herzegovina.

One final friendly game (against Portugal) remains in the ‘USA tour’ and will take place this Friday evening at 7.30pm Mérida time, in Foxborough, MA.

After that, the Mexican team will be heading quickly to Brazil, to begin intensive training before their first game, against Cameroon, on Friday 13th of June. Not an auspicious date in some Anglo cultures… however in Mexico, Friday 13th is not considered unlucky (that honor goes to Tuesday 13th), and we look forward to the first of many victories on the road to the final.

For the schedules, groups, and matches in the upcoming World Cup, see here: