2010 FIFA World Cup: The 10 Greatest Moments for Mexico of All-Time
Despite a long history of participating in football's biggest stage, the Mexican national team has far and away been a constant disappointment in most of their outings, boasting two quarterfinal finishes as their grandest achievements.
Evidence of Mexico's historic underachieving leads us to the present, where fans and media commentators alike within the country are touting a quarterfinal finish as a successful showing.
These shortcomings notwithstanding, Mexico has had a breadth of memorable moments in World Cups past, with several of these entering the annals of football history.
Here are the top 10:
10) The First Game, the First Goals
On July 13, 1930, football's inaugural World Cup kicked off in Montevideo, Uruguay. The two teams selected to begin the festivities were France and Mexico.
Mexico's squad featured mostly players from the top amateur league in the country, Mexico City's Liga Mayor. Boasting such future legends such as striker Juan Carreño and Francisco Garza Gutiérrez and his brother Rafael, who founded the country's most polarizing squad: Club América.
In the snow, and almost 20 minutes after the game started, Mexico became the first country to receive a goal in World Cup play—with Oscar Bonfiglio being unable to stop Lucien Laurent's shot.
Laurent remembered it thusly: "One of my teammates centered the ball and I followed its path carefully, taking it on the volley with my right foot. Everyone was pleased, but we didn't all roll around on the ground—nobody realized that history was being made. A quick handshake and we got on the with game."
France would win the match 4-1, with Manuel Rosas scoring Mexico's first goal in World Cup play.
9) The First Point
It would be almost 28 years to the day from that faithful match in Montevideo that Mexico would gain its first positive result in the World Cup, netting all losses from 1930 to 1954.
And while the rest of the world was getting acquainted and subsequently marvelled by a young phenom known simply as Pelé, the 1958 tournament in Sweden is dear to Mexican fans because it featured the first non-loss in competition.
Following a tough 3-0 defeat at the hands of host Sweden, Mexico turned their attention to Wales for their second match. Ivor Allchurch put the Europeans ahead in the first half, and as the minutes died down, the stench of inevitability was upon El Tri .
However, Jaime Belmonte would decide that 28 years was long enough and scored the equalizer at the 89th minute, nullifying any possible reaction and sealing Mexico's first draw and first point.
8) The First Victory
Mexico's snail pace in World Cup prominence came to pass four years after Belmonte's strike, when they would finally be able to claim a victory in tournament play.
Brazil and Spain had already assured Mexico would be going home without knockout stage play, but there was still the matter of playing Czechoslovakia, a strong nation that would see more time in the Cup.
Unfazed by Vaclav Masek's first minute goal, the trio of Isidoro Díaz, Alfredo del Aguila and Héctor Hernandez converted for Mexico, giving El Tri a 3-1 victory that finally gave those back home a reason to cheer.
7) "El Cinco Copas"
Antonio Carbajal would establish a record that is yet to be broken at England 1966, when he appeared in his fifth World Cup.
Starting at Brazil 1950, Carbajal had been the unquestioned starting keeper for the Mexicans for the better part of a decade and a half. When England 1966 rolled around, he was now the second-choice goalie behind Ignacio Calderón.
Despite this, Carbajal was given a chance to tend goal in Mexico's final group stage game, against two-time champion Uruguay.
Ninety minutes later, Carbajal exited World Cup competition for good with a lasting record—and a clean sheet to boot.
6) Home-Field Advantage
It's no coincidence that Mexico's two best finishes have come when football's grand event was played on their home turf—they're better yet when they host in Mexico City's enormous Estadio Azteca.
In 1970, Mexico went undefeated at the Estadio Azteca, drawing at nil with the Soviet Union, pummeling El Salvador 4-0 and beating Belgium 1-0.
Pushed out of the imposing coliseum, Mexico faced Italy in Toluca, where they were crushed 4-1.
Sixteen years later, Mexico would once again be helped by Azteca's mystique, when they repeated over Belgium, defeated Iraq, and drew with Paraguay. Their Round of 16 crossing had them defend the Azteca against Bulgaria, whom they beat 2-0.
Pushed out of Mexico City for the first time, El Tri took West Germany on in Monterrey, under sweltering heat. Despite that seeming advantage, the Europeans took Mexico to the penalty spot, where they eliminated them 4-1 after extra time.
In World Cup play, Mexico's record at Azteca is stellar: Five wins, two draws, no losses.
5) Negrete's Scissor Kick
During that momentous 1986 World Cup, Mexico's strike force was composed by a formidable group: Hugo Sánchez starred for Real Madrid, Luis Flores was coming up for UNAM Pumas, and his partner in club and country, Manuel Negrete, made people talk about his game as well as his extravagant hair.
In the Round of 16 game against Bulgaria, Mexico was unable to break through after more than a half hour of play. The game required another type of attacking strategy short of the spectacular.
When strategy proved to be slow to come, Negrete tried the latter—by taking a floated pass just inside the box and scissoring it spectacularly into the back of the net.
The goal can be viewed here.
4) Planet Earth, Meet Cuauhtémoc Blanco
A forgery scandal left Mexico out of the 1990 World Cup, but a strong showing in 1994 gave people within the country hope for the following offering held in France.
Under head coach Manuel Lapuente, Mexico displayed organized tactics and a strong midfield, bolstered by the scoring prowess of Luis Hernández, who scored four goals in the tournament.
Despite that scoring clip, it would be Cuauhtémoc Blanco who would garner the lion's share of attention, wowing crowds with his patented bunny hop or "Cuauhtemiña" against South Korea, and then scoring an outstanding goal against Belgium.
Blanco's reputation would be solidified one year later when he lead Mexico to their only Confederations Cup victory to date, and promptly emigrated to Spain.
Cuauhtemiña (Various examples from 0:19 on.)
Belgium Goal (At 0:53.)
3) "Matador's" Late Clincher
In that 1998 World Cup, Mexico defeated South Korea 3-1 and drew with Belgium 2-2. To get to the second round, they would have to get past one of the consensus favorites to win it all: Holland.
The Dutch team showed why they had earned the distinction, as they rolled past the Mexican defense in the first half twice, leaving El Tri on the ropes.
Fast forward to the 94th minute, well into injury time, with Mexico having made it a game again at 2-1. A long pass to Luis Hernández had "El Matador" seal his place in Mexico's World Cup history only seconds later when he put the ball in the net and Mexico into the Round of 16.
View the video here.
2) Borgetti, l'italiano
Four years later, Mexico was close to completing a dream first round in Korea/Japan.
After defeating Croatia 1-0 and Ecuador 2-1, Mexico had the opportunity to defeat Italy for the first time ever.
The game was a see-saw battle for the first 25 minutes or so, with Mexico edging slightly. A few minutes after that benchmark, the descended-from-Italy Jared Borgetti scored a fantastic goal for Mexico, giving them a 1-0 lead.
Five minutes from the end, Alessandro del Piero would give Italy the draw, but Mexico would move on first in their group.
View the video here.
1) Rafa's Revenge
At Germany 2006, Mexico's play was seemingly on a downward spiral: After beating Iran in the opener, El Tri managed a draw against Angola and then lost to Cristiano Ronaldo and Portugal, 2-1.
Their Round of 16 crossing was unforgiving: Argentina.
Rafael Marquez, coming off a 2002 World Cup which he exited in disgrace by headbutting Cobi Jones and getting sent off, found himself wide open after an early free kick touched on by one of his teammates.
The Barcelona defender then exorcised his demons by sliding into the ball and slamming it into the back of the net for the game's opening goal.
Voted one of the best games of the 2006 World Cup, the match nonetheless ended in familiar fashion for Mexico: a heartbreaking loss off of Maxi Rodriguez's scorcher in extra time.
View the video here.
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