It was a rare treat last night for me. I got to watch my native land (Canada) battle my adopted land (Mexico). Muchas gracias, Telemundo! Te voy a comprar una cerveza en octubre. So, of course, I had to watch.
I tuned in to the standard definition broadcast. I wasn’t amused at that but at least it was in Chiapas rather than Estadio Azteca. I’m pretty sure La selección mexicana hasn’t lost there since about 1810. So that gave me hope, especially since Canada was coming off a terrible, terrible loss to Honduras in Montreal. It was tragic and probably killed its hopes of advancing. But, of course, I held out hope: Sven-Göran Eriksson is the new Mexico manager. Perhaps he’ll screw things up.
But it wasn’t meant to be. Mexico won 2-1 in heavy rain.
Mexico looked the best it has in a good long while. I attribute this to Eriksson embracing a youth movement. Andrés Guardado looked very good. He ran the Canadian midfielders and defenders ragged with his pace. He had several good touches. Giovanni dos Santos, though, looked rather ordinary. But Omar Bravo once again came through for this country, scoring at 55 minutes. Rafa Márquez added Mexico’s second goal in the 72nd minute. Márquez even handed the captain’s armband to Cuauhtémoc Blanco when the latter entered the match in the 88th minute. It was to be his final match; after the game he retired. (Perhaps a blog in appreciation of Blanco is in the offing… perhaps not, though.)
Canada, as usual, played inspired soccer for about 35 minutes. They only kicked it into overdrive in the second half when they fell behind. And by then it was too late. Granted, Canada hung with the second best team in North America until Bravo scored. The goal seemed deflating at first; Dwayne de Rosario, though, impressed on his mates the urgency of the situation. Canada pushed forward and were eventually rewarded with an Ali Gerba goal in the 77th minute. The situation looks downright bleak for Canada now; qualifying for the next round requires a series of fortuitous events after the series of unfortunate events of the last five days.
I still don’t think Eriksson is the manager Mexico needed. Although they looked good last night, I attribute that to the young pups finally set loose. Tactically, Mexico looked average. I’m sure Eriksson was none too impressed with Jonny Magallón’s frequent runs, which left him out of position (to be fair, he played well on his line, too). Eriksson is not the manager I would’ve picked; he simply doesn’t have the tactical imagination. Though it’s working so far, the true test is when Mexico plays the US. I’ll be looking forward to that.