The World Cup Starts Here

Less than two months to go, and my preparations are in place. My students have been informed – any big games during their classes, and they don’t get a class. I’ve forked out 15 pesos for a Panini sticker album. I know, I’m a bit old for that, but I’m always convinced that this time will be England’s glorious moment, and I want all the souvenirs going. I’ll not be buying an England top this time round, but will invest in a green Mexican short of some (not too costly) nature. I also have Sky Sports, but I’ll be heading into the centre of the city for Mexico’s games. Armed with my camera, and ready to record the mad procession to and then around, and around, and around the Angel of Independence. As is the tradition.

Most importantly of all, I have bought four tickets to see Mexico play Chile at the Estadio Azteca in May, their last game in the country before they head off to play a few friendlies in Europe (including England at Wembley) prior to their first game in the World Cup in South Africa. Which will actually be the first game of the tournament. They open the event against the hosts, South Africa. What are their chances? They have a really tough group. It’s hard to see how they could have got a tougher group. Hosts South Africa, France and a slightly resurgent Uruguay. I personally fancy them to go through with France. A host nation has never gone out in the opening group phase before, but there’s always a first time. This could well be it.

From there, in the knock out stages, it is anyones game. Most Mexicans are pretty pessimistic. The general consensus is that they’ll put up a mighty battle against the first decent team they play, make everyone proud, and then get back on the plane to come home having lost. Their pessimism has historical support – that is normally exactly what happens. But at almost every tournement you’ll get one unfancied nation, one minor dark horse, get through to the semi finals. I’d like to think Mexico could be that team. They’ve played some great football since Hugo Sanchez left, having left them teetering on the brink of failure to qualify at all. Javier Aguierre has turned their fortunes around dramatically, with some thumping wins – it’ll be a long time before Mexicans forget the 5-0 thrashing they gave their northern neighbours in the final of the Gold Cup.

Mexico has a nice blend of experience and youth too. Rafael Marquez and Cuahuatemoc Blanco have been there, done that, got the T-shirt. The former is Mexico’s most successful footballer ever, with two European Champions League medals to his credit. The latter is, in my opinion, the greatest player to have ever pulled on a Mexico shirt. They have a number of other players who have plyed their trade in Europe, including a couple of youngsters who have Premier League experience in England. There’s also the new sensation Javier ‘Little Pea’ Hernandez who has just signed to play for Manchester United next season. Add in a few professional stalwarts like Cruz Azul’s Gerrado Torrado, and you have a pretty balanced team, high on talent, confidence and ability.

I’m looking forward to that game at the Azteca though. There are still tickets available at the time of writing, but don’t hang around – it’s likely to sell out before too long. I’ve been to see plenty of games in Mexico City, but all of them at Estadio Azul, home of Cruz Azul, my adopted team. I have actually been to the Azteca, a year or so ago. You can turn up most afternoons, slip the guy at the gate a few pesos (about 25 if I remember rightly) and you’ll get let inside to have a good wander round. If you’re quick, you can step on the grass and pretend to be Pele at the 1970 World Cup. But be quick, because you’ll get shouted at for trespassing on such hallowed turf…

Estadio Azteca

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  • By the way, just in case anyone gives a toss, the font I used in the World Cup 2010 image in the sidebar is the Mexcellent font, which is a free font based on a creation of Lance Wyman. The font was created for the Olympics in 1968, and the font used for the World Cup in Mexico in 1970 was in turn based on that. Wyman was also the guy who designed the logos and typography for the Mexico City Metro system.

  • Gary, you are right that “Most Mexicans are pretty pessimistic”, not just about the World Cup but life in general. Mexico is the country of “ya merito” (‘almost there’) and the slogan of the football team is “Jugamos como nunca, perdimos como siempre” (we played like never before, we lost as we always do)… Having said that, since 1994 (the first World Cup I remember) Mexico has always made it to the second round. In 1994 we beat Ireland, drew with Italy and lost to Norway, but ended as 1st in the group. In 1998 we beat South Korea and drew with the Netherlands and Belgium. In 2002 we beat Croatia and Ecuador and drew to Italy. And in 2006 we beat Iran, drew with Angola and lost to Portugal. So we have 5 victories, 5 draws and 2 losses in the World Cup since 1994.

    I know the past is a bad guide for the future, but historically Mexico does well in the 1st round regardless of rivals ! I am just sorry that Mexico’s victory against South Africa will sour the party for the locals…

    • “Jugamos como nunca, perdimos como siempre” – I like that! I’m going to make good use of that phrase somewhere along the way!

      They’re all good stats you’ve produced there, and history is on Mexico’s side as far as getting (or at least scraping!) through the first round. I wouldn’t put it past them to top the group – I’m going to leave my more precise predictions till closer to the start of the tournament though!

      It would be a shame to see Soth Africa crash out so early….perhaps France will screw up again like they did in 2002. We can hope…!

    • To be honest Julie, I barely ever use Twitter. I did use to have a Twitter widget, but seeing as I have Twitter set up to blast out all my posts on here, all it ever listed was the posts on here….and I have an Archive for that!

      Or did you mean something else? My Twitter profile is here anyway….

      http://twitter.com/garydenness

  • I’m counting not the days, not the hours the SECONDS for the start of this thing.I don’t know how are the things up there in the island, but here in Mexico it is a tradition to buy the album Panini before the World Cup, and nobody is never too old for the traditions.

    Sorry Gary but I don’t believe that England reaches the top of the World Cup this time, it has many injured players (Beckham, Owen, Ashley Cole, Rooney), and with players out like Bridge. I think Capello has lost some important options. But Capello is Capello and surely he already will have planned something to do to strengthen the defense.

    I must confess to you that England isn’t usually one of the teams whom I support, except for that Eurocup of 1996 (damn you deutsche bastards!). So I usually enjoyed when England is eliminated, sorry but as a rule it plays against teams whom I support (Cameroon in 1990 or Argentina in 1998). But this time plays against USA so I’ll root with my soul for the brits at least for that game. I think that the group of Mexico could be worse, it could be with Brazil, Cote d’ Ivory and Portugal.

    So pray for the England players stay out from injuries Gary (oh I forgot! you don’t pray) prepare the sofa and the guacamole and say goodbye to your wife (just 2 months) because is WC time.

    P.D. Believe me, it is not a good idea to go to Reforma if Mexico wins a match, believe me, the party usually becomes really hardcore.

    • I did notice in 2006 a lot of grown men buying the Panini album….I was only too happy to join in! Best thing, I can go pick up the stickers I need when I get near the end from the local mercado. Never had that possibility in the UK!

      Englands ‘golden boys’ peaked in 2006. And failed miserably. On paper, we have a weaker team this time round. But there is one difference between now and then in Englands favour, and that’s the reason I think we have a chance. More on that will follow! I don’t want to pre-empt posts I already have in mind…

      Ashley Cole and Rooney will be fit and well for the World Cup and they are the important ones. Beckham would have been in the squad, but not as an integral part. He’s not going to be seriously missed. As for Owen….even if he were fit and on form he wouldn’t be picked by Capello. He hasn’t been any good for six years now. A big name internationally I guess, but he’s not rated back in England any more.

      And you should support England a little more…..we did bring football to Mexico you know!

  • Gary;

    With much anticipation (and libations… to fuel the fire of passion), my Mexican friends and I are trying to figure out what the WC lineup for Mexico is.

    Not being totally fluent in Spanish and having at least two people in my circle that think Chivas should be the National Team, my information is slightly unbalanced and skewed. What are some of your thoughts on who is going where?

    Torrado for sure to anchor the midfield. I argue that Marquez is great, all the way up to the point where his passion overcomes his senses, then Mexico plays a man down. I think Blanco is too old but I am in a distinct minority. Mexico has many, many, many good midfielders and strikers. My argument is that the inclusion of Blanco would prevent someone younger, fitter, and faster from getting an opportunity.

    What is the word on the brothers Vela? The brothers Dos Santos?

    My dark horse is Pablo Barrera. He has shown very well up to late. And yes I know who he plays for, Cementero. 🙂

    A perspective from the belly of the Mexican soccer beast, especially coming from an educated outsider’s perspective, would greatly be appreciated.

    Michael

    • To play Chivas as the national team? That’s a thought. In 1982 the England manager Ron Greenwood tried to plump as many Liverpool (or former Liverpool) players into the team as possible. Liverpool had after all swept all comers before them for the last four years, picking up three European Cups. It didn’t work out. He still took a lot of LFC players to the World Cup, but adopted a more ‘mixed’ approach. Funnily enough though, If we’d had a Great Britain team, most of them would have been Liverpool players.

      Carlos Vela – he still hasn’t quite done enough to break into the Arsenal first team, which is a shame for him and Mexico. and Gianni Dos Santos was a bit of a failure. But football in the Premier League tends to suit some players more than others.

      I have a post on Blanco coming up…..yes, he is too old. But no, it doesn’t matter. 🙂

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