Thursday, August 03, 2006

Chivas Semi-Final Flame-Out

Perhaps it was a good thing that Chivas de Guadalajara—one of Mexico’s most famous and honored football clubs—self-destructed so thoroughly and found themselves crawling away from a 3-0 Sao Paulo thrashing in Brazil last night, considering that their schedule is full of late. Chivas are set to play FC Barcelona this weekend in L.A. as part of Barca’s four game exhibition tour of North America before the start, in a few weeks, of the Catalans’ La Liga season opener. Then in a few days, Chivas is set to begin their new season. Six of their players, including keeper Oswaldo Sanchez, midfielder Ramon Morales, and striker Omar Bravo, recently played in the World Cup, and there’s no denying that the team looks a bit ragged-ass and primed for a siesta.

It’s only been since 1998 that Mexico has been involved with the Copa Libertadores de America, the South American equivalent to the European Champions Cup held every year, and in 2001 one of Mexico’s other top teams, Cruz Azul, made it to the final only to lose to Argentina’s Boca Juniors. Sao Paulo, the reigning champs, is one of Brazil’s best teams (and arguably the world) and it was obvious why when they do the things they do. Last week’s game, held in Guadalajara, was frustrating enough with Chivas going down 1-0. But last night was bad, bad, bad. For the first part of the game, Chivas held their own and managed to have a few good attempts on goal, most notably in the 28th minute when Morales delivered a flaccid penalty kick against Sao Paulo’s goofball yet fantastic keeper, Rogerio Ceni. It was a stinging disappointment for Chivas (and their fans), and one that continued to fester with brazen ambition when Leandro scored for the Brazilians in the 33rd minute. But that wasn’t the end to the pain. Oh, no. Midfielder Mineiro brutally punished the Mexican squad a little more in the 39th minute, inciting the crowd to flame on and preparing Chivas for a long, dragged out, excruciating second half. All of the bruises and wounds inflicted on me during the World Cup reopened. And poor Chivas, what must they have been thinking in the locker room?

The second half, as already mentioned, was dreadful for Chivas. . .and for me as well. The Mexican squad, especially the national players, were timid and nonexistent. If you hadn’t already figured it out, it was obvious that one team wanted to win more than the other. Chivas lost their cool and their balls—Bravo had an embarrassing freak out at one point when a Brazilian player touched him on the head and the Mexican player acted as if he’d been stabbed in the cabeza; Sergio Santana attempted a “Hand of God” move; a red card was dished out against Mexico in the 72nd when Hector Reynoso piggy-backed a Brazilian player, viciously kneeing him in the back; and on, and on, and on. The last 15 minutes were the longest I’ve had to witness since . . . well, the last Timbers’ home game.

But the match did have some awesome moments, including the many shots of crazed and joyous Brazilian fans lighting up the night with flares and fireworks, and the moment when keeper Sanchez had to stamp out a petroleum laced thingamajig that went soaring down onto the pitch from the terraces. At first, Sanchez ignored it. But then his manly impulses got the better of him and he decided to stomp it out. It didn’t work, at first. The fire antagonistically spread into two, three, four more flames. Sanchez eventually got the better of the conflagration, but it was the last time during the match that he would show such certainty.


El Jurgen said...

It was definitely a shame to see Chivas fall versus Sao Paulo... the magic (or balls as you put it) that Chivas displayed against Velez the week before.

Derek said...

But hey, Chivas did level against Barca last Sunday, so . . . .

Chivas came to Portland the summer of 2002, right after the World Cup, and played an exhibition with Cruz Azul. It was so much fun to see two huge teams like that here and I wish they'd come back.