* With new video link!
The final 15 minutes of North America’s six-team qualifying process, for Brazil 2014, was madness.
And it ended with a crazy result: Mexico remaining alive for the World Cup thanks, pretty much entirely, to US Soccer … and with a Mexican television announcer shouting: “God bless America” in English.
Mexico was playing at Costa Rica, and the U.S. was at Panama.
With a victory or a tie, Mexico would clinch fourth place, and a berth in the international play-off with New Zealand.
However, a Mexico loss would open the door for Panama, which with a victory over the Yanks could jump up to tie Mexico in points (11) and finish ahead of them on goals scored — sending Panama to the play-off with New Zealand and Mexico into despair.
How did it end?
Unlikely to forget that description of events.
“Estados Unidos, we love you! We love you forever and ever!”
Meanwhile, in the States, soccer fans are wondering if giving Mexico a path into Brazil 2014 is a good idea.
So, just past the hour mark in the games, which kicked off at the same time, Costa Rica scored to take a 2-1 lead over Mexico, and for a few seconds El Tri was out of contention … until Michael Orozco scored for the U.S. in Panama City, making it 1-1 … and Mexico was back in and Panama was back out.
(Before we go any further, let’s give credit to both Costa Rica and the U.S. for what went on tonight. Each had already clinched a berth at Brazil 2014; each could have rolled over for these final matches. Neither did. The Ticos, and their fans, seemed supremely enthusiastic about being the death of Mexico, and the U.S. lineup, though almost entirely a second-team crew, played with the sort of determination we always expect from American teams — as well as guys hoping to impress Jurgen Klinsmann, the coach.)
In the 83rd minute, Luis Tejada scored, giving Panama a 2-1 lead, and setting off a wild celebration in Panama City, where about 30,000 people seemed determined to shake down the stadium.
A Panama victory, a Mexico defeat, and Panama would be making plans to go to New Zealand, and probably would be considered a favorite to win.
(I was watching this, live, in Abu Dhabi, on Al Jazeera Sports, which seemed to televise about 30 World Cup qualifiers yesterday, toggling between USA-Panama and Mexico-Costa Rica, at 7:15 a.m.)
That state of affairs, giddy in Panama, distraught in Mexico, lasted for about five minutes.
In San Jose, Mexico’s response to the urgent need for a goal was limp. It was raining, and El Tri seemed tired and disorganized and hapless in the attack. Which would explain why the Mexico broadcaster started shouting when Graham Zusi, Landon Donovan’s understudy, headed in a goal in the 92nd minute, tying the game with Panama.
Mexico was back in the World Cup, Panama out — if only the U.S. could hold Panama to that draw.
It got better, for Mexico. In the 94th minute, Aron Johannsson, the new kid, put one past the suddenly deflated Panamanians, the game ended USA 3, Panama 2, and Mexico, despite winning only two of 10 games in the hexagonal … was one big step closer to Brazil.
A sidebar: Between the two goals, the Mexican duo announcing the split-screen games went on a rant against their own team. According to Deadspin, their Spanish-language stuff went something like this, when translated:
“GOOOOAAAAAAL The US of A puts us in the playoffs!!!!!” USA!
“It is because of the USA that we are being placed in the playoff … BECAUSE OF THEM , NOT DUE TO YOU. NOT ANY OF YOU in the green shirts ….IT WAS THEM!! NOT YOU!..THEY DID IT!!!!! NOT YOU! remember this forever. … KEEP THIS CLEARLY IN MIND FOR THE REST OF YOUR LIVES! 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! NOT YOU AND YOUR ARROGANCE/CONCEIT. NOT YOU AND YOUR INFAMY. NOT YOU AND YOUR MORONS/PUNKS…
“IT IS A FAILURE…..and UNDESERVED — to go through to the playoff. WE HAD NO ARGUMENTS to earn the playoffs, THE USA, WITH SUBS, WITH MANY SUBS as the visiting team shows us once again what the USA is all about ….how to play the game with dignity, how to approach the sport. Mexico is a horror, just terrible … A FAILURE….
“THE USA HAS SURPASSED US ..They are better than Mexico in SOCCER ….THEY EVEN HAVE THE LUXURY OF PLAYING THEIR SUBS and KEEPING US LIVE…. I hope our coach wears the pants and resigns. He has failed as coach …”
So, Mexico is alive.
US Soccer couldn’t avoid a bit of taunting, on their live feed.
“Mexico spared through no real effort of their own. Now a chance to snag some frequent flier miles before the holidays with a trip to NZL!”
And here is a link to (mostly) Spanish-language from a Mexico site with some amusing photo-shopped pictures.
(My favorite is the one of Chicharito in his pre-kickoff pose, praying at midfield, and the thought bubble reads: “Please let the USA win. Please let the USA win.”)
Also, in the cyberworld, lots of discussion about whether it was good to allow Mexico to live to fight another day. A commenter named Manny Chen wrote: “US should have lost. It would have been nice to see Mexico squirm. They would have done it to us.”
He may be right. Mexico likely would have tanked a match if it meant the U.S. staying home.
But I still … still … prefer the idea of Mexico in the World Cup, for a couple of reasons:
They are far more likely to get past New Zealand and into the World Cup than Panama would be, and far more likely to get out of the group stage at Brazil 2014.
The successes of Mexico and the U.S. is the main reason that Concacaf gets 3.5 World Cup berths. That’s a lot for a region with really only three consistently strong soccer countries.
And I still believe Mexico cannot be this bad. Even with eight months of evidence that suggests that, yes, they are this bad.
As mentioned before, we need to think of this now as a matter of North America solidarity. I am now a fan of Honduras and Costa Rica and, yes, Mexico … even if those Mexico broadcasters are not.