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: http://www.fifa.com/worldcup/index.html

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