10 August 2009

know your foe - mexico

"What stupid people they are! They can do nothing and their continued defeats should convince them of it. They have lost six great battles; we have captured six hundred and eight cannon, nearly one hundred thousand stands of arms, made twenty thousand prisoners, have the greatest portion of their country and are fast advancing on their Capital which must be ours,—yet they refuse to treat [ie negotiate terms]!" - Army Captain Kirby Smith during the Mexican American War

The US Men's National team resumes final round World Cup Qualifying Wednesday when they travel to the dirty-dirty-dirty south to face Mexico in Mexico City. Of the six remaining CONCACAF (Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football) teams the US sits in second place (3-1-1, 10 pts) behind Costa Rica (4-0-1, 12 pts). Mexico is in danger of not qualifying for the World Cup for the first time since 1990 when they were disqualified for using over aged players in the 1988 Seoul Olympics. Mexico is currently in fourth place in the final stage (2-0-3, 6 pts) with the top three CONCACAF teams advancing to South Africa in 2010, while the fourth place team will have to play the third place team from the AFC (Asian Football Confederation) for the final spot in the World Cup. Most recently the two sides c-listers faced off in the Gold Cup Final with Mexico winning 5-0. The teams last met for World Cup Qualification in February with the US winning 2-0 in Columbus, OH.

The Federación Mexicana de Fútbol Asociación, A. C. was officially founded in 1927. Although soccer had been popularized by European settlers early in the 1900's the Mexican Revolution disrupted the development of the sport. Since 1930, Mexico has qualified for thirteen World Cups with their best result being quarterfinal appearances in both tournaments they hosted; 1970 (losing 4-1 to Italy) and in 1986 after playing Franz Beckenbauer's West German side to a 0-0 draw they we're knocked out 4-1 on penalties. Overall, in World Cup Competition, Mexico holds a record of 11 wins, 22 loses, and 12 draws with 48 goals for, and 82 against.

The Mexican National Team's home stadium is in the lovely metropolis, and capital city of Mexico - Mexico City. Originally founded by the Aztecs in 1325, Mexico City sits in the Valley of Mexico surrounded by mountains and volcanoes. The Spanish eventually conquered the Aztecs, unleashing a lifetime of Moctezuma's Revenge. Following the Mexican War of Independence, Mexico City would be captured by the United States in the Mexican-American War. Shortly after capturing the city American generals quickly decided they didn't really want it after all, and instead settled on taking present day California, Nevada, and Utah from our southern neighbors. Present day Mexico City, with a population of over 8.7 million, and a greater metropolitan population of nearly 20 million is the most populated city in North America and 10th most populated city in the world. Despite being at an altitude of over 7,000 feet most of Mexico City is surrounded by mvountains. Combine Mexico City's 7.9 million cars and over 50,000 factories with it's natural geography and Mexico City is consistently ranked as one of the world's most polluted cities. In fact there is nearly 25% less oxygen in Mexico City than at sea level. Add in the fact that over a quarter of the cities residents have no access to sewage or running water and I'm sure you'll want to start planning your next vacation.

In addition to being the home grounds of the Mexican National Team, Estadio Azteca is also home to Mexican Primera División side Club América. Construction on the stadium was completed in 1966 in preparation for the Mexican hosted 1970 World Cup. At 7,200 feet above sea level, the stadium has earned a reputation for Mexico's national team as a fortress of results. Mexico's first loss in World Cup qualifying at Estadio Azteca would come some 35 years after opening, a 2-1 defeat against Costa Rica in 2001. With a seating capacity of 105,000 (the third largest stadium in the world) and a signature noise amplifying roof it is one of the loudest places on earth to see a match. It is also the only venue to have hosted two world cup finals (1970 & 1986). In Pele's final international match, Brazil defeated Italy 4-1 in the 1970 World Cup Final. In the 1986 World Cup Quarterfinal between England and tournament champion Argentina, the stadium played host to both Maradona's 'hand of god goal' and the FIFA named 'goal of the century'.

Head to Head Record
The US and Mexico first met in 1934 during a qualifier in Rome, the United States won 4-2. Wednesday's game will be the 57th meeting between the US and Mexico. The US trails the all time series with a lifetime record of 15 wins, 30 losses, and 12 draws. The Americans have never won a match played on Mexican soil - posting a record of 0-22-1, with the lone tie coming in a 1997 match in Mexico City. However, since 1990, the teams have faced off 29 times with the Americans leading the series with a record of 13-8-8. Five of those games have been played in Mexico – all in Mexico City – with the U.S. posting a 0-4-1 record. Two of those games were played at neutral sites, with the U.S. posting a 2-0 win at the 2002 FIFA World Cup in Korea and prevailing 4-1 in penalties after a 0-0 draw at the 1995 Copa America in Uruguay. Landon Donovan leads the US with 10 caps against Mexico, scoring his first goal for the National Team against Mexico in 2000. There is definitely no love lost between these two teams. Whether the classless Mexican fan's are chanting Osama Bin Laden's name in Unison at the American team, booing during the national anthem, or pelting US fans and players with batteries, urine and feces it's sure to be a classy affair!! At least Landon Donovan pissed on a bush at Jalisco Stadium.

Trophy Case
Most recently the Mexicans defeated the United States 5-0 in the 2009 final making it their fifth CONCACAF Gold Cup.(1993, 1996, 1998, 2003, & 2009) Prior to the Gold Cup, Mexico won three CONCACAF championships '65, '71, '77. They also hold three Pan Am Games Gold Medals - 1967, 1975, & 1999; 6 Central American and Caribbean Games Gold Medals - 1935, 1938, 1959, 1962, 1966, 1990. They also claimed the 1999 Fifa Confederation's Cup beating Brazil 4-3 on the hunchback of Bridgeview - Cuauhtémoc Blanco's game winnder in the 62nd minute in front of 110,000 at Estadio Azteca.

Following a 2-1 defeat by the Americans, and one and seven overall record, former Manchester City coach Sven Eriksson was let go as head coach of the Mexican National Team after less than one year. On April 3rd 2009 Javier Aguirre was named manager after leaving Atlético Madrid. During his playing career Aguirre earned 59 caps for Mexico scoring 13 goals as an attacking midfielder. In his press conference shortly after being announced Aguire asked of his players, "May the player who comes, come with pride, with identity, with love for the shirt..." to which his side promptly lost 2-1 against El Salvador in his first return match as head coach. Less than a month later, perhaps hoping to inspire his players, Aguire kicked Panamanian player Ricardo Phillips during a stoppage in play leading to both men being ejected. Although Aguire later apologized to his players, fans, and the media, he kept it straight gangster and offered no such apology to Phillips.

Safe to say this is a must win match for the Mexicans. Aguire has called in all the fire power he can muster in a last ditch effort to qualify for South Africa in 2010. Not in uniform is team captain and FC Barcelona defender Rafael Marquez who was sent off when the US faced Mexico in February and is recovering from injury. At Aguire's disposal will be Chicago Fire Striker Cuauhtémoc Blanco, Arsenal winger Carlos Vela, VfB Stuttgart defender Ricardo Osorio, Tigres defender José Antonio Castro, Cruz Azul midfielder Gerardo Torrado, and Tottenham midfielder Giovani Dos Santos among others.

The Game
A few facts to consider: Of the twelve qualifying matches for South Africa in 2010, Tim Howard and Brad Guzan have posted 8 clean sheets. Goal keeper Tim Howard has appeared five times against Mexico. In addition to having never lost against Mexico, Howard has also recorded two shut outs. Out of Bob Bradley's 18 man roster, only four players have experience playing at Estadio Azteca: Carlos Bocanegra, Gooch, Steve Cherundolo, and Landycakes. Couple that with the fact that Mexico has lost only one time at home in the history of Estadio Azteca, and the Americans have never won on Mexican soil, it's going to be a tough game to get a result from. However, after the embarrassing 5-0 loss at Giant's Stadium last month the US will be looking for revenge.
Prediction - US 1 : Mexico 1

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