Mexico: The Fifth ElementBy: Juan Mesa
HOW DID THEY GET HERE: Mexico reached its 15th World Cup by miracle. A goal by Graham Zusi in the final minutes of the USA vs. Panama game rescued Mexico from one of the most embarrassing moments in their soccer history, sending El Tri to the intercontinental playoff match against New Zealand. There, the Mexicans predictably beat the All Whites both in Mexico City and in Wellington, amassing a 9-3 aggregate score.
BIGGEST STRENGTH: Most people would agree that it’s the players that decide games, but in Mexico’s case a lot depends on coach Miguel Herrera. Known for his tempered character, charming speech and nationalistic spirit, “El Piojo” is capable of instilling a winning mentality in his players, just like he did at the long-struggling Mexico’s Club América.
BIGGEST WEAKNESS: Mexico will not have striker Carlos Vela on the field, after the Real Sociedad player refused to appear in the World Cup due to conflicts with the Mexican Federation. President Peña Nieto should have offered him an oil well to convince him, because there’s no match for his talent in the rest of the roster’s forwards.
WORLD CUP CHANCES: Mexico’s luck extended from the qualifications to the World Cup draw. They have to play Brazil in Group A, but after having faced Cameroon and Croatia, two approachable rivals. But moving past the round of 16 would be a real surprise.
FUN FACT YOU NEED TO KNOW: Welcome to the world of “El Quinto Partido.” That’s how the Mexican media labels El Tri reaching the quarterfinals, something that has only happened twice before when Mexico hosted the World Cup in 1970 and 1986. It has become an obsession since then, because getting there would mean that Mexican soccer has reached the next level. And if they get there, Mexican broadcasters will be talking about reaching the semifinals for the next 30 years.
IF THEY WERE A SONG, IT WOULD BE: Arcade Fire's "We Exist." Sample lyrics: “Tell ’em it’s fine / Stare if you like / Just let us through / Just let us through.”