Tough task, but there’s hope ahead of Argentina match
MEXICO CITY: Maximiliano Stern is an Argentine working in Mexico, and he has mixed emotions about tomorrow’s World Cup match between Mexico and Argentina.
“I would have preferred that Mexico played someone else in the next round and kept winning,” Stern said.
“But now that we play Mexico, I hope we win. Of course, it’s not guaranteed. It’s been a nice party atmosphere here. Mexicans will give a party for anything.”
Mexicans know all too well the fiesta is likely to end – and again against Argentina.
This marks the fifth straight time that Mexico has reached the final 16 of the World Cup.
Mexico lost the four previous showdowns – against Bulgaria, Germany and the United States in 2002.
The latest came in the 2006, a 2-1 loss in extra-time to Argentina through a soaring volley by Maxi Rodriguez.
Stern, the director of an IT company in Mexico City, was here four years ago and took grief from his Mexican colleagues after Argentina’s victory. He fears a repeat.
“I will have to lock myself in the house again for a week,” he said. “It’s not good to be an Argentine living here and be involved in more football frustration for Mexico. Even on a normal day, Argentines are not the most popular here.”
Thousands of Mexicans went with hope this week to the Angel de la Independencia monument in the city’s centre, the traditional site of football celebrations.
What they found after the loss were rows of policemen in riot gear holding shields and helmets listlessly, watching from a distance as small groups of fans in jerseys and sombreros posed for news cameras.
“To be for Mexico… it’s a bit tough,” said Jesus Sanchez, wearing a black Mexico jersey and milling around the Angel.
A hard-core Mexico fan with a home jersey draped over her ar m, Marina Gonzalez predicted a 3-0 loss against Argentina and another disappointing exit.
“It’s difficult because we always hope, but we don’t always play,” she said after Tuesday’s 1-0 loss to Uruguay that left Mexico second in Group A and set up the showdown with the two-time champions.
Argentina defeated Greece 2-0 to win Group B.
Mexicans see their country as a football force, but the reality is different.
Mexico have never gone past the quarter-finals, reaching that stage when they hosted the event in 1970 and 1986.
The Mexicans have slipped behind the USA as the power in the region, and entering the World Cup they were ranked No 17 by Fifa. So an exit at the round of 16 is about right.
Coach Javier Aguirre said his team would need on-field savvy to beat Argentina, who play a game similar to Uruguay’s.
“It’s going to be competitive against another team that knows how to manage the clock, the referee, the fouls – that looks for every advantage. We will have to overcome things like this.”
Just down the street from the Angel, tomorrow’s big game could mean big business for Javier Pacheco, an Argentine who manages the restaurant Quebracho.
The traditional Argentine barbecue joint will be hopping.
“The Mexicans are passionate about the game like we are,” Pacheco said. “I think we will win. But I worry because we have all these great stars and we don’t always play as a team.”
David Acuna, a Mexican and the headwaiter, described the match as 50-50.
“Argentina is very good,” he said. “Maybe they have better players. But we can beat them. We always say that. But I’m still optimistic.” – Sapa-AP