Michael Burgess

Michael Burgess is the football and rugby league writer for the Herald on Sunday.

Soccer: Mexicans pour scorn on All Whites

Paul Aguilar of Mexico celebrates with his teammates after their win over the All Whites. Photo / Getty Images
Paul Aguilar of Mexico celebrates with his teammates after their win over the All Whites. Photo / Getty Images

Mexico can breathe again.

Despite all their soccer pedigree, passion and resources, there were genuine fears around the country before Thursday's match that El Tri would somehow find a way to continue the soccer misery that has enveloped the country in 2013.

Mexicans knew their team should win, but didn't trust them to perform; there was uncertainty over exactly what New Zealand would bring to the contest and most of all, a massive concern over the arduous trip to Wellington. It was regularly talked about as if it was a modern version of Burke and Wills' trek across Australia, or the voyage of the Kon Tiki. Media continually emphasised that Mexico would need to take an emphatic lead to avoid a catastrofe en el pais de los Kiwis.

That all looks quite paranoid now. After a few bitterly cold days, the sun shone on Mexico City and the smiles returned. All the talk was of Brazil.

"Mexico thrashed a very limited rival," said El Universal. "Next week should be a formality."

"With its best performance of the year, Mexico took advantage of a docile New Zealand to destroy the dreams of the Oceania Champions," said Reforma newspaper. Sports daily Estado proclaimed: "Against a rival from the end of the world, Mexico rediscovered their punch in the cruellest of World Cup qualifiers."

The Mexicans, while hailing their side's performance, were unimpressed with the All Whites. One commentator felt the New Zealand side tried to erect a "modern day Great Wall of China" while another summed up the prevailing mood: "We were worried, mainly because of what we had seen in 2010," said a correspondent on ESPN Deportes. "But this team lacked strategy, strength, speed and skill."

Almost half of respondents to a newspaper poll felt the result reflected Mexican superiority, while 41 per cent thought the major factor was the weakness of New Zealand.

Another poll had 28 per cent attributing Mexico's dramatic return to form to the low level of the opposition, more than the new coach (25 per cent) or the prevalence of players from a single club (18 per cent).

However most experts recognised the huge impact of the loss of Winston Reid and another pointed out that "this team has players without clubs and also amateurs - how can they compete with professionals. The miracles of the past don't exist in modern football."

There was also high praise for goalkeeper Glen Moss, with one writer claiming his heroic performance "stopped it becoming an even more tragic day for the visitors" and his string of fine saves "prevented a massacre from becoming a holocaust".

- NZ Herald

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