ON THEIR TRIP TO RUSSIA 2018
México made a good impression as they appeared at the Russia 2018 World Cup. They defeated the German team, who were defending their title, and also showed a lot of courage before Brazil, another five-time champion. El Tri fell during the same round and there wasn’t a fifth game. But this team truly made us dream. Here are some of the highlights of their participation on the World Cup that started at the station of Samar, Russia, on the riviera of the Volga.
México made it to the World Cup in fifteenth place and came out in a better position. Their rank in the world of soccer seems like an impossibility for sports analysts in Mexico. It was a difficult tournament for El Tri. Germany, and then Brazil were in their path. So far, no team in history has been able to defeat both of those soccer marvels in the same World Cup. And El Tri gave it all on the field.
Fans of the Mexican national team were hoping to see them return home with the World Cup 2018 in their hands. They got closer. In Germany 2006, the team led by Argentinean Ricardo La Volpe was uncapable of defeating a humble team like Angola. Later, the team lead by the great Huga Sanchez, was left out of the Pekin 2008 Olympic games. And the team by Miguel Herrera didn’t defeat any of the bigger teams.
A big surprise
There is no better word to describe Mexico’s victory over Germany than ‘bombshell. This happened at the Luzhniki stadium in Moscow, same venue where the final game is played. Germany arrived in Russia with the intention of defending their fourth world cup, that they secured four years ago in Brazil. That German team was also very secure after defeating the Mexican team at the 2017 Confederation Cup.
The ‘Mannschaft’ had always won their first game in the past seven World Cups. But a magistral strategy by Director Juan Carlos Osorio, also known as ‘El Profe’; the genius of Carlos Vela; and a goal by raising star Hirving ‘Chucky’ Lozano, were the obstacles that Germans couldn’t overcome. Germany started as a favorite, but that day, Mexico showed them the emergency exit. The team lead by Joachim Löw didn’t go past the first round. ‘El Tri’, on the other hand, did.
Mexico finished that game unharmed, and it became the first big ‘bombshell’ of this World Cup. That game also had an important other meaning. The eternal captain of the team, Rafael Marquez, was matching the five appearances at a World Cup as his fellow Mexican, goalie Antonio Carbajal, German player Lothar Matthäus -who raised the cup in 1990- and another goalie, Gianluigi Buffon, world champion with Italy in 2006.
‘El Kaiser de Michoacán, as the 39-year-old player is also called, surpassed all of them. He was the only player to be a starter, at least in one game, on the five world cups. Also, Márquez -who succeeded in Europe with his work in Monaco and Barcelona, and his two Champions- was the captain of “El Tri” on all of them. He did it in Russia, facing Brazil, before ‘returning’ the captain’s bracelet to Guardado, who also finished his great season with the Real Betis with this great world cup appearance.
“Professor” Osorio arrived in Russia entangled in harsh criticism. But all his players strongly defended him. Miguel Layún, one of the most versatile pieces of ‘El Tri’, defined the Colombian coach as “a genius”. He worked the game perfectly. He planned all the possible scenarios, and that is why when we came on the field, we knew what could happen. Having the game planned allowed us to do what we did. I hope in the end he gets credit for all the work he did,” explained Layún.
Osorio invested time on technical, strategic and psychological aspects. “We have to play for the love of winning and not for the fear of losing,” announced Osorio on the eve of defeating Germany. The coach, with the much-appreciated help of Imanol Ibarrondo, life coach from Spain, worked to build a winning team. They played as equals with Brazil. El Tri was very courageous before the “cannarinha do jogo bonito,” even as they lost the game.
The true defeat of the Mexican team happened at the city of Ekaterimburgo, in West-central Russia. It was the loss they had before Sweden. After winning the two first games with Germany and South Korea, Mexico started dreaming, even as a favorite, for a world cup without hierarchy. And after getting so much criticism for his frequent rotations, the only time that Osorio repeated the lineup in 50 games, everything went wrong.
“El Tri” could have tied that game to be on top of their group and therefore navigate the theoretical “soft” side of the group, but their lives got complicated on that day. “When you can avoid Brazil, you have to do it as much as you can. Obtaining a tie with Sweden, they would have later faced Switzerland on the eight finals. Everything would have been different. The only big stain on Mexico’s performance is their goal-rich defeat before Sweden. That game changed their destiny,” said soccer expert Abel Flores.
México committed suicide by losing to Sweden, but South Korea rescued them from the dead. The last few minutes at Ekaterimburgo, with a 3-0 score board, brought a lot of tension. At the same time, but in Kazan, the Asians were tying the Germans. Korea scored on the third minute of the overtime; and scored again three minutes later, to win 2-0. Korea saved Mexico and sent Germany home.
Nominate for an Academy Award for best acting
Neymar, the star from Brazil, ended Mexico’s journey in Russia. He scored the first goal and helped Firmino with the second one. However, this player was driving Mexicans crazy with his drama on the field. Osorio complained about the referee’s performance and how lineant he was of the Brazilian player. Meanwhile, Guardado said that Neymar was getting away with everything so that star players don’t leave the World Cup.
This Brazilian player, who is claiming the throne left vacant by Argentinean Lionel Messi and Portuguese Cristiano Ronaldo, didn’t go unscathed at the game with Mexico. Layún gave him a stomp for him to unravel his acting skills. Also, the Aztecs resisted Neymar and his teammates up until minute 88. For that, Guillermo Ochoa proved one again he is one of the best goalies in the world.
“El Tri” left Russia “with their heads held high, but very sad,” as told by Ochoa in Samara. México was defeated once again on the round of 16. Now the team is redrawing their future. Journalist and sports analyst Abel Flores assured that “El Tri” must maintain their tactical level, that is one off the best in the world. Also, Mexican players must continue to grow physically and rub elbows with the best players in the world.”
Flores believes that “will happen by developing their base and exporting more players every time to elite European teams. The team we saw in Mexico showed some deficiencies on their defense by not having big figures on that position… It is crucial to recruit, train and promote young players that will become the new heroes. The generation of Chicharito, Ochoa and Guardado already planted their seeds. The team needs to enter a new cycle.”
Chicharito has 50
Javier Hernandez, born 30 years ago in Guadalajara, scored his goal number 50 with “El Tri.” He is the player with the most goals on the team’s history. Chicharito joined Rafael Márquez and Cuauhtémoc Blanco as the only Mexican to score goals in three world cups.
Ochoa, a hero
Guillermo Ochoa had a spectacular performance at the World Cup as the goalie of “El Tri.” This is the second consecutive world cup where Memo is the true hero of the team.
A rising star
Hirving “Chucky” Lozano showed his talent in Russia 2018. This twenty-two-year-old born in Mexico City was the author of the historic goal before Germany, that gave “El Tri” victory on their first game of the cup. With this performance, this player has impressed the big clubs. Both Real Madrid and Barcelona are interested in him. But Chucky must finish his contract with the Dutch team PSV. He is the star goal scoring player for that team since the beginning of 2017. Chucky is a raw diamond the PSV has. He began playing soccer at the youth teams of C. F. Pachuca. When he was 18, he debuted don February 8th, 2014 at the Clausura 2014 game against Club America on the Aztec Stadium.
Love for El Tri
Fans of the Mexican team showed their love for their team. According to the media, about 50 thousand Mexicans traveled to Russia to witness the games of their national team and to leave their print on the host country. Meanwhile, the millions of followers that stayed in Mexico came out on the streets to celebrate the victories and grieve the defeats their team had.