Debating what the topic of my first post should be and after harnessing some scattered thoughts, I have come up with what I think is a very apropos topic to “discover” and help “kick off” this site. What is it you may ask? Mexican Soccer! What else?
Though I admit I have not been a huge fan of the sport either as a player or a spectator, my interest and passion has been growing over the years. To me, and probably a lot of us growing up in the States, soccer was far removed from our more traditional pastimes of baseball and football. It was something we played as an impromptu game during a very short recess period in grade school. It certainly was not something we participated in as an “organized” sport or watched on TV.
More recently however, I have taken a sharper interest and maintained a passion for digging deeper into the sport. A lot of this has been driven from being around many friends from Mexico and hearing their lively debates, to put it mildly, about which team is more dominant, “Las Chivas” from Guadalajara or “Los Diablos Rojas” from Toluca. In the end, there’s never a definite consensus among them, but eventually they all come together as Team Mexico makes it final selection for the World Cup and chooses it players from all stripes within the country.
From this angle, I take a brief peek into Mexican soccer’s humble start, while highlighting some of its legendary great players, its past coaches and the path to the 2010 World Cup.
Known as ‘El Tri” by most Mexicans because of the tri-colored uniforms representative of the national flag, Mexican soccer had an early start with a tough going. Initially, it assembled its first national team in 1927 and would go on to play its first World Cup in 1930 in Montevideo, Uruguay. Playing in a group fielding France, Chile and Argentina, the outcome was not a good one as Mexico never recorded a single victory in that entire stretch.
Fast forward several decades and five world cups later and Mexico would enjoy its first victory against Czechoslovakia in 1962. Now, with an increased vigor and a growing national pride, more investment in the sport led to FIFA’s recognition of Mexico as a viable host country and awarded it the 1970 and 1986 World Cups. In both instances, Mexico achieved its best outings by reaching the quarterfinals. Since then, fans of El Tri have not had much to cheer about. In the most recent World Cup of 2006, Mexico was eliminated in the second round after losing to rival Argentina in extra time.
GREAT PLAYERS OF THE PAST
Though Mexico can only claim a couple of quarterfinal finishes in all its World Cup appearances, it’s had its share of star players over the decades. Here are just a few regarded to be legendary “TRI” players of the past and present.
Antonio Carbajal (Goalkeeper) Played in five WC’s (1950, 1954, 1958, 1962 & 1966) and was given the nickname ‘El Cinco Copas” for his five appearances.
Hugo Sánchez (Forward) Considered by many to be Mexico’s greatest player ever, Sanchez played in three WC’s ( 1978, 1986 & 1994) and also spent time abroad playing for Spanish teams Real Madrid and Rayo Vallecano in the 80’s and 90’s.
Luis Garcia (Forward) Participated in two WC’s in 1994 and 1998.
Luis Hernández (Forward) Hailing from Veracruz, Hernández was part of the national team during the 1998 and 2002 WC’s
Cuauhtémoc Blanco (Forward) Currently on the roster, Cuauhtémoc, a veteran player, has participated in two previous WC’s in 1998 and 2002. He is considered to be one of the TRI’s top scorers.
Javier Aguirre: 2009-Present
Sven-Göran Eriksson: 2008-2009
Jose de Jesus Ramirez: 2008
Hugo Sánchez: 2007-2008
Ricardo La Volpe: 2003-2006
Javier Aguirre: 2001-2002
Enrique Meza: 2000-2001
Manuel Lapuente: 1997-2000
CURRENT PLAYERS TO LOOK OUT FOR
Rafael Márquez (Defender) Known as “Rafa”, plays for Barcelona
Guillermo Ochoa (Goalkeeper) Nicknamed “Memo”, plays for America
Javier Hernández (Forward) Known as “Chicharito” plays for Guadalajara
Gerardo Torrado (Midfielder) plays for Cruz Azul in Mexico
HOW THEY GOT HERE
CONCACAF QUALIFYING FOR 2010 WORLD CUP
Feb 11: US 2- Mexico 0
Mar 28: Mexico 2- Costa Rica 0
April 1: Honduras 3- Mexico 1
June 6: El Salvador 2- Mexico 1
June 10: Mexico 2- Trinidad Tobago 1
Aug 12: Mexico 2- US 1
Sep 5: Costa Rica 0- Mexico 3
Sep 9: Mexico 1- Honduras 0
Oct 10: Mexico 4- El Salvador 1
Oct 14: Trinidad Tobago 2- Mexico 2
In the end, Mexico qualified for the World Cup by ending up with a total of 19pts. It was one short of the US total and three better than Honduras’ 16 points.
So, there it is! For a country entering its 14th World Cup and currently ranked at 17th in the FIFA world rankings, Mexico is a country vying for world respect and hoping for much more than successful quarterfinal finishes. The hope for many is that “El Tri” can finally overcome those early round mishaps and move on to finishing on a grander stage. Whatever the outcome, this World Cup is sure to be one of the most anticipated and popular ones to date! Enjoy everyone!