MEXICO CITY — Even when you wished to, it was unattainable to flee the eye of Thursday’s World Cup qualifier between the United States and Mexico. Strolling round North America’s oldest metropolis, numerous photos of the 2 rival soccer groups appeared on newsstands whereas eating places buzzed with chit-chat concerning the match on the Estadio Azteca.
Even on the Nationwide Museum of Anthropology, in what ought to have been a quiet morning distraction on the day of the sport, a few attendees with U.S. males’s nationwide staff jerseys wandered round and gazed upon historical Mexican artifacts.
When the USMNT walked onto the pitch on Thursday night time, lots of them additionally probably gazed outwards, questioning what had made the Azteca a big relic of its personal for Mexico. Regardless of the push and pull between the 2 rival soccer nations, the imposing venue within the coronary heart of the nation had by no means supplied a win for the USMNT in an official match.
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Solely two instances has Mexico misplaced a World Cup qualifying match on the Azteca — to Costa Rica in 2001 and to Honduras in 2013. So uncommon that these defeats are merely known as Aztecatazos. It absolutely did not wish to see the USMNT etch its identify to that record.
Contemplating that each the USMNT and Mexico won’t have to qualify for the World Cup as co-hosts in 2026, and that an expanded match will put the qualification course of into query going ahead, it turned clear that Thursday’s match would even be the final significant one for the 2 international locations on the venerable Azteca for a minimum of a number of years, or even perhaps ever.
Mexico have been longing for redemption. After shedding three earlier instances to the USMNT within the CONCACAF Nations League last, the Gold Cup last and a earlier qualifier, a press release win on the Azteca could be an ideal goodbye to their notorious clashes on the house floor.
With an ever-increasing quantity of hype, the stage was prepared for a celebration. A high-stakes battle with a possible World Cup spot on the road, and whereas the 87,000-capacity stadium was capped to 50,000 supporters resulting from safety protocols, the stage had all the essential elements.
— Cesar Hernandez (@cesarhfutbol) March 25, 2022
Conventional songs corresponding to “Cielito Lindo” and chants like “¡Olé!” and “¡Si Se Puede!” (“It may be achieved”) rang out as Mexico’s followers aimed to liven up the celebration. The PA announcer, in an effort to drown out cases of the anti-gay chant that has plagued El Tri matches, inspired followers to shout “¡Méxicoooo!” on purpose kicks.
Then the frustration arrived. One second nostalgic lyrics crammed the crisp night air, the following, a refrain of boos rained down onto the pitch as each groups floundered to a 0-0 draw. The undefeated streak had continued for Mexico on the Estadio Azteca, however the identical could not be mentioned about lastly reclaiming a win.
— Cesar Hernandez (@cesarhfutbol) March 25, 2022
For a lot of El Tri followers, their anger was additionally targeted on the shortcoming to assert three factors that will have introduced them extremely near qualifying for the World Cup.
And but, Mexico supervisor Gerardo “Tata” Martino did not appear too bothered with what had simply unfolded, even because the “¡Fuera Tata!” refrain grew within the stands.
“We competed nicely with the USA,” mentioned Martino after the match, oddly happy. “Right this moment we seeked to equal the rhythm of the sport through the 90 minutes.”
¡RETUMBA EL FUERA TATA EN EL AZTECA! 🗣
— ESPN.com.mx (@ESPNmx) March 25, 2022
On paper, 0-0 is not the worst end result for the 2.
A win would have undoubtedly modified their fortunes, however with one other level every they have been in a position to barely preserve their distance above fourth place Costa Rica (19 factors) and fifth place Panama (18 factors) within the Octagonal desk. So long as Mexico (21 factors, third place) and the USA (21 factors, second place on purpose distinction) preserve their place throughout the prime three, a direct spot to this yr’s World Cup might be earned.
Wanting again at Mexico although, who have been barely lucky to not permit a purpose by their American rivals, bittersweet emotions stay about their newest efficiency.
Martino’s substitutes have been made far too late, the assault lacked chemistry, and though the protection was one of many few positives, they allowed the USMNT to create harmful possibilities — which, fortunately for El Tri supporters, they missed.
Will Martino discover enhancements?
“We have misplaced that calm within the final 25 meters of the sphere. Not solely through the instances when we have to rating a purpose, but additionally when needing to make that cross,” Martino mentioned. “It is clear that it is a topic that we have to restore.”
Mexico’s subsequent two and last opponents within the Octagonal, might be extra forgiving. On March 27, they will go to a Honduran aspect who are actually formally out of the operating for the World Cup with a four-point tally on the very backside of the desk at eight place. Then, on March 30, El Tri will host sixth place El Salvador, who’re additionally eradicated for World Cup rivalry with 10 factors.
There’s a simple path to World Cup qualification right here, however the challenge is not one nearly qualifying for the large match. It is about showcasing alongside the best way that the staff can compete for one thing far better than regional dominance.
Consideration spans are notoriously quick within the worldwide window and there might be one other alternative at dwelling when Mexico hosts El Salvador. Nonetheless, after strolling out of the Azteca on Thursday night time, one could not assist however really feel that the stadium had misplaced some mystique — and that El Tri closed the newest chapter of its rivalry with the USMNT on a shaky and precarious be aware.