Mexico have one of the richest World Cup histories in the world having qualified 14 times since their inauguration in 1930, Indeed only Brazil, Germany, Italy and Argentina have qualified for more tournaments than “El Tri”.
Despite this Mexico’s story is generally one of disappointment and under-achievement (as a Scotsman a feeling I know only too well) with a record of 45 games, 11 wins, 12 draws and 22 losses their record is skewed by early failure but still unimpressive.
Only twice have they progressed into the quarter-finals in 1970 and 1986 (both of which when they were hosts) and it took them 13 games before they recorded a tournament win against Czechoslovakia in 1958.
Fortunately their recent history has been a little better and South Africa will be their 5th qualification in a row since USA 1994 (in 1990 they were suspended for previously fielding over age players), each time being eliminated in the last 16.
However for the Mexican populace this record is far from pleasing. Mexico can boast a population of 110,000,000 the majority of which are football fanatics who idolize their national team and follow them with passion that borders on insanity. Simply put when “El Tri” play Mexico comes to a standstill and when they lose the country slips into a state of national mourning. Current expectations are of a last 8 berth, equaling their previous best although in truth a lot of Mexicans hold delusions of grandeur and truly believe they can win the trophy.
In 1986 Mexico was host for the 13th World Cup in which many, including myself believe was the finest in recent history. At this time Mexico could boast a forward line of Hugo Sanchez and Javier Aguirre (current national coach) both plying their trade in La Liga. Second round qualification was achieved with a 2-1 win against a strong Belgium team, a 1-1 draw with Paraguay and a nervy success against lowly Iraq.
Bulgaria were next for Mexico but they were dispatched courtesy in part to a beautiful goal by Manuel Negrete setting up a quarter final clash with West Germany. In typical fashion the Germans held Mexico to a 0-0 draw eventually triumphing 4-1 on penalties, Mexico’s only consolation was that Negrete made the tournament all star team.
In 1994 Mexico had a short trip north to their neighbours in the USA which would have felt like home again given the size of the Mexican population in the states. In truth the Mexicans were lucky to progress after a 1-0 loss to Norway, a 2-1 win against the Irish (remember Jack Charlton and Steve Aldridge) and 1-1 draw against Italy. In the end all Group E teams had 4 points with Mexico topping the group on goal difference.
Again Bulgaria were next in the second round but this time the Stoichkov led Bulgarians had their revenge 3 -1 on penalties after a 1-1 draw and extra time. If the Mexican’s had played as colourfully in the tournament as their goalkeeper, Jorge Campos’s self designed tops then they would went all the way to the final and at least brightened up this famously drab last game. Unfortunately, however it was poor showing again from a talented and promising team.
In 1998 Mexico travelled to a World Cup in Europe (France) for the first time since England 1996. Free scoring striker Luis Hernandez contributed 3 goals in a 3-1 win against South Korea and 2-2 draws with Belgium and Holland during the first round ensuring a second round berth against Germany. However, despite going ahead courtesy of another Hernandez strike the Germans hit back late on through Klinsmann and Bierhoff sending the Mexicans home early yet again.
If France 1998 was tough for Mexico then South Korea/Japan in 2002 was simply heartbreaking. The Mexican team had real quality in Captain
Rafael Marquez an on-fire Jared Borgetti and Cuauhtemoc Blanco at the
peak of his powers.
An impressive 1-0 win against Croatia was followed by a 2-1 success then a 1-1 draw with Italy qualifying Mexico as group winners.
The second round pitched Mexico against their hated neighbours the USA or “the gringos” as they are more affectionally known.
The game marked a shifting in the balance of power in the COMNEBAL region as the USA ran out 2-0 winners through Brian McBride and Landon Donovan a late Marquez red card only compounded the misery and sent the Mexicans home early again.
In the last World Cup in Germany Mexico were largely unimpressive firstly recording a 3 – 1 victory against Iran, a dreadful 0 – 0 draw with African minnows Angola then losing 2 – 1 to Portugal. Four points ensured their continued involvement but this time they were matched against favourites Argentina in the next round.
Maybe enjoying their underdog status Mexico more than matched the Argentineans even going ahead via a Marquez strike in the first half. Unfortunately Argentina equalized from a Borgetti own goal 5 minutes later but Mexico were coping well defensively and penalties looked imminent. That was until Maxi Rodriguez cracked a wonderful, left footed volley from 30 yards piercing Mexican hearts and sending them home in the 2nd round once again.Three little known Mexican World Cup facts :
1. Mexico’s Antonio Carbajal has the most World Cup appearances along with Germany’s Lothar Matthäus both having played in five tournaments.
2. Tunisia were the first African team to record a win in the World Cup after beating Mexico 3-1 in Argentina, 1978.
3. Mexico will open the tournament against hosts South Africa on the 11th of July in Johannesburg and must hope to end a personal World Cup hoodoo as in the 4 times before that they have played in the inaugural game they have failed to win (1930 in Uruguay, France 4 – 1 Mexico, 1950 in Brazil, Brazil 4 – 1 Mexico, 1958 in Sweden, Sweden 3 – 0 Mexico and 1970 in Mexico, Mexico 0 – 0 USSR).