Sunday, June 11, 2006

World Cup Spotlight: Mexico; Mexico vs. Iran 3-1

This was the first great match I've seen so far. The first one that sucked me in emotionally and reminded me--clarified--why I love this game so much. There's no denying the magnitude of animosity between the U.S. and Mexican national squads. On the pitch, players from either side tussle, kick, dive, bitch, moan, and whine shamelessly. Off the pitch, in the stands and in the streets, the shared loathing is palpable as well. Everytime I hear those ugly, stabbing chants of "USA! USA! USA!" desperately bent on mutilating every pinata in sight, I sink in my seat and feel embarrassed for my fellow countrymen a little more, though sometimes I just hate them. Being half Mexican and half a mish mash of various Northern European blood, I've always felt conflicted about who to root for when it comes to the border war. I like the American squad for the most part and want them to do well whether it's in the World Cup or not, and there are certainly players I enjoy watching (Pope, Beasley, Reyna, McBride, Johnson, and metalhead Keller). But ever since last summer when I watched the Mexican squad during the Confederations Cup (when they beat Brazil) I'm no longer conflicted about the rivalry.

The current Mexican national team, manhandled by the mucho macho Argentinean Ricardo Lavolpe, is more free-flowing and dynamic than they've been in years, and the squad will frequently change formation in a game if the old one is simply not working. They're also scrappy, attack-minded, and players like the rangy bobble-headed Jared Borgetti aren't timid about mixing it up with a strapping behemoth like Oguchi "Gooch" Onyewu from the U.S. team either. And with the influx of young talent into the ranks, Los Tricolores have the realistic chance of making it to the quarter finals at the least and possibly all the way to the final. With Ramon Morales, Antonio Naelson, and Jaime Lozano in the midfield, Rafael Marquez, Ricardo Osorio, and the great Claudio Suarez holding the line in the back, and keeping Borgetti, Guillermo Franco (when he's not flopping around on the pitch), Francisco Fonseca, and Omar Bravo hunting for shots up front, the possibilities are wide open.

Mexico got a chance to test their World Cup mettle earlier today in their opening match against a solid Iranian team. I tried watching the ABC coverage but changed it to Univision after a few minutes when I couldn't take Brent Musburger and company blathering on about the U.S. team during the pre-game show. Why not honor the two teams actually playing and save the requisite ballyhoo for Arena and the boys for their own day in the spotlight? I'm not sure whether the inability to do so is strictly an American broadcasting irritation or a virtual pandemic plaguing all countries that have teams in the cup--but I digress.

The match itself was splendid. Team Melli played well and their one goal by Yahya Golmohammadi was a nice one, but the team's defense unraveled to the point of no return in the second half, leaving them weak for the two pronged Mexican strike from Bravo (his second goal of the game) in the 76th minute and another one from substitute Antonio Zinha in the 79th. With flair and courage the Mexicans have failed to display in recent friendlies, this was the team I had originally fallen in love with. And if the sight of keeper Oswaldo Sanchez, who unexpectedly lost his father last week (he was supposed to be at today's match watching his son play), embracing his fellow teammates in bittersweet triumph didn't move you, then you have no soul. Viva Mexico!

4 comments:

neil williamson said...

>I'm not sure whether the inability to do so is strictly an American broadcasting irritation or a virtual pandemic plaguing all countries that have teams in the cup--but I digress.

Just been turned on to this blog by Lynda (via the TTA boards), and am really enjoying it.

On the above point, I think it's pretty global to be honest, but it's especially prevalent here in the UK where the pre-match, half-time, and post-match analyisis is limited to a few minutes on the game in question, before attention is switched to England, England, England.

Okay, so they are the UK's only representative this year. And okay, I am Scottish, and therefore hypersensitive. But I'd like to see a bit more respect played to the other countries.

I'm amazed to hear that the big networks are broadcasting the games this year. I fondly remember our tour of Florida in 2002 in which our itinerary was selected according to which hotels we could find that had ESPN2. Happy days!

Keep up the blogging.

neil

Chigger Christ said...

For the Sweden/Trinidad & Tobago game, the ABC commentators (of which Mustberger was not a part, thank Christ) focused exclusively on the two teams on hand, which i found shocking and refreshing. This is not a golden era for sportscasting of any stripe.

Derek said...

neil said: "I'm amazed to hear that the big networks are broadcasting the games this year. I fondly remember our tour of Florida in 2002 in which our itinerary was selected according to which hotels we could find that had ESPN2."

Well, of the big networks, only ABC is showing games--though only a few. ESPN2 is showing games everyday. Unfortunately, neither channel is showing repeats, though I heard that some of the U.S. games will air twice. ESPN will gladly air paint ball championships and anything to do with poker, but the World Cup . . . .

Having bitched about all that, I really am happy that the cup is being shown at all. And that's good to know, I guess, that the commentary is just as poor in the UK. Luckily I can just switch over to the Spanish channel and watch the game ignoring the commentary (I don't speak Spanish). The Spanish channel also shows the pre-game footage of the players walking out of the tunnel, national anthems, and all that. ABC and ESPN do not show any of that, though ESPN did show the U.S. and Czech teams coming out onto the pitch, and the U.S. national anthem, of course. But the broadcast cut to a commercial right before the Czech anthem! No respect.

I don't know why the announcers can't treat the WC more like the Olympics. Sure, your respective broadcasters are going to focus on the home country more--fine. But can't they show some respect for the other clubs and showcase some of their players, etc? If anything, it would simply make the game more dramatic and enjoyable, especially for soccer novices.

Thanks for the kind words about the blog as well.

Derek said...

chigger christ said: "For the Sweden/Trinidad & Tobago game, the ABC commentators (of which Mustberger was not a part, thank Christ) focused exclusively on the two teams on hand, which i found shocking and refreshing. This is not a golden era for sportscasting of any stripe."

Well that's good. I actually missed that game and only watched a portion of it on tape later that night. And whatever happened to the play-by-play guy? One thing I've noticed, especially today for the US/Czech match, was that both announcers just pour out a bunch of triva and don't really discuss what's happening down on the pitch. Weird. I just want a balance is all.