A country of natural beauty and a unique culture, is one of the best ways to describe Mexico, as a nation. Within that unique culture lies religious love for soccer.
Teams like Club América and Las Chivas De Guadalajara are the cornerstone of Mexican soccer. The heart, soul, and worldwide representation of Mexican soccer lies in the national team.
But decades of international competition, heartache and headaches cast a haunting shadow over the Mexican National Team.
No Era Penal
After barely clawing their way into the 2014 World Cup, Mexico was drawn into Group A; alongside host Brazil. Mexico was expected to be Brazil’s punching bag. Instead, Mexico forced a 0-0 draw against Brazil, and also defeated Croatia and Cameroon, to earn 2nd place. Mexico’s next opponent was 2010 runner-ups, the Netherlands.
El Tri held a firm lead, following Giovani Dos Santos’ 48th minute goal. As the final five minutes approached, all Mexico had to do was stick to ground passes, maintain possession, and run the clock.
Everything collapsed in the final two minutes. Wesley Sneijder capitalized on a worn out defense to score an equalizer.
Mexico attempting to break the deadlock proved to be a mistake. Bayern Munich star Argen Robben, master of drawing out converseratial penalties, managed to get fouled by Rafa Márquez, inside El Tri’s penalty box. The Dutch were awarded the decisive penalty, to send El Tri home.
‘No Era Penal’ roared through the stadium and flooded social media, as Mexico faced their sixth Round of 16 exit in a row.
Breaking Unwanted Records
Apart from winning the tournament itself, other record breaking accolades add to the sweet taste of victory.
After multiple World Cup appearances, El Tri is a proud holder of dubious records. Mexico’s current World Cup records are most losses at 27, worst goal differential at -38, three winless tournaments (30’, 50’, and 78’), consecutive matches conceding at least three goals, seven straight Round of 16 eliminations (from 1994 to 2018), and no appearances in the final four.
El Tri is the undisputed champion of racking up these stats.
Copa America Humiliation
Pain doesn’t stop at the World Cup. Check out Mexico’s recent Copa America runs.
In 2015, El Tri was drawn into Group A; with Bolivia, Ecuador, and host Chile. Bolivia humbled Mexico with a 0-0 draw. El Tri and eventual champion Chile beat each other to the ground, with a 3-3 draw. To avoid elimination, all Mexico had to do was beat Ecuador, without conceding a goal. Instead, Mexico stuck to their M.O, and lost the match. Coach Miguel Herrera was red carded, to make matters worse.
Herrera claimed to have saved the better squad for the upcoming Gold Cup. Which is ironic, considering how unconvincing was that championship victory.
Copa America Centernario (2016) was El Tri’s shot at redemption. Things started off on the right foot, with Group C domination. Then came the dreaded knockout stage. Mexico morphed into a division three team, got curb-stomped 7-0 by Chile; showing they had no business competing against South American giants.
Confederations Cup Disasters
Mexico is no stranger to FIFA Confederations Cup gold, having won it in 1999. Their 2013 and 2017 runs make you realize they were in over their heads. In 2013, Brazil and Italy proved to be too much for El Tri, by scoring four goals combined, securing Mexico’s group stage elimination.
Four years later, Germany and Portugal routed Mexico, in the knockout stages. Germany breezed by with a 4-1 semi-final win, and Portugal snatched third place in the closing minutes of their game.
Creating and Sacrificing Legends
Some of the finest clubs worldwide have enlisted the services of all-time greats, like Hugo Sanchez, Rafa Márquez, Cuauhtémoc Blanco, Guillermo “Memo” Ochoa, and Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez. All had the potential to make an impact on an international level. Still, their legacies will be defined by club achievements, rather than those accomplished in the national team.
As part of the national team, single moments standout as instant classics. Those end up as the most recognized appearances of those legends.
2018 World Cup Illusion
While the road to Russia 2018 was smoother than Brazil 2014, Mexican blood pressure rose, once Mexico was drawn into Group F; alongside Sweden, South Korea, and champions Germany.
German opposition had not lost a beat, from their previous encounter. Still, Mexico fought valiantly, for a 1-0 upset. Immediately, Mexico looked like contenders for the gold. After edging South Korea and being dismantled by Sweden, questions about Mexico’s legitimacy arose.
Brazil put an end to all optimism. As revenge for their 0-0 draw, Neymar put on a show for the ages. The PSG star was in agonizing pain, with every light tap from the Mexican defense. Neymar’s antics burned time and increased Mexico’s frustrations; making it easy for him and Firmino to score. It was enough to send El Tri packing.
There is no question that El Tri possesses the talent to go toe-to-toe against the world’s best. They’ve shown it countless times, enough for fans to believe that El Tri can win the big one. The sad truth is that Mexico chokes under pressure and lacks consistency, this is the routine no matter the circumstances.
Do you believe Mexico will ever break the stereotype of failure, and prove everyone wrong?