The Excelsior newspaper website headline said it all: “Thanks, United States!”
If it weren’t for the U.S. national soccer team’s last minute triumph over Panama last night, the Mexican soccer team would not be hanging by a thread in hopes of qualifying for the 2014 World Cup.
Mexico also played Tuesday night. It was a crucial match against Costa Rica. The two sides played in drizzle in San Jose, and Costa Rica came out the winner 2-1.
Yet in the final minutes of the game, a surreal thing happened: Mexican television broadcasters kept breaking away to show the U.S. victory over Panama, and Mexicans cheered wildly for a victory by their archenemy _ the U.S. squad.
On TV Azteca, broadcaster Christian Martinoli went nuts, simultaneously blaming the Mexican team in a rant for worthless play, while lauding the U.S. victory.
"We love you forever and ever! God bless America!" he shouted. Then he turned his wrath on the green-shirted national players: "You do NOTHING for the shirt, you do NOT put the effort, you have NOT placed us in the playoffs, you HAVE NOT placed us in the WORLD CUP ..YOU WOULD NOT HAVE KEPT US ALIVE....IT WAS ESTADOS UNIDOS, NOT YOU!
Thanks to the U.S. triumph, and despite its own loss, Mexico still has a chance at a Wild Card spot in the World Cup. It plays New Zealand Nov. 13 and 20. Out of six teams in the North and Central America Concacaf conference, Mexico came in fourth, barely surpassing Panama because of the U.S. victory.
"Play-off courtesy of the gringos," tweeted former Mexican President Felipe Calderon. “What happened?”
This is wrong on so many levels, and several Mexican sports analysts join me in their disgust. After all, the Mexican squad is full of highly paid pros. According to El Universal, the total payroll of the Mexican players is $112.6 million. They are the New York Yankees of the soccer-playing world in this region. Fans of other Major League Baseball teams always complain of the big Yankees payroll of $203 million.
Yet still, Mexico could barely pull out a win against pipsqueak teams from Central America, nations a twentieth or a thirtieth of their size with players earning much smaller salaries.
For the World Cup qualifying series, Mexico played 10 games. It won two, tied five and lost three. Yet it still might make it to the World Cup.
“I hope New Zealand wipes us out,” Ivan Perez Montiel wrote in this morning’s El Economista. The Mexican players go on the field without passion, without soul, he wrote, and the blame should fall on the Mexican Football Federation and its leaders.
Leave the Mexican players playing in European pro leagues, he wrote, and let players from the national league fill the squad.
“I prefer to watch a team of warriors without talent over a talented team that at the end of the day needs a handout to survive. It hurts that the world sees us with this team, it pains and ashames me because this team is worthless,” Perez wrote.
Now, El Tri, as the Mexican team is known, will have to travel all the way to Oceania to keep its hopes alive. The coach, Victor Manuel Vucetich, is showing confidence: “We will defeat New Zealand,” he predicted after Tuesday’s loss. “We have a good group of players to reach it.”
Some of his countrymen would disagree.