Dear American soccer fans,

You only THINK you hate Mexico.


Astoundingly, it's 9:00 a.m. Valley Village time, and the only thing on the wire that comes up when you punch in "Hugo Sanchez fired" is this amusing little AOL bit about how thoroughly Guatemala lay down for the Leaves of Maple. Don't hate the players, Mr. Warner. Hate the game. By the way, there is no truth to the rumor that Guatemala will change their national anthem to five minutes of boos and whistles.

It's extremely hard to feel sympathy for Hugo, who I assume will be fired some time before I hit "Post." Unlike Peter Nowak, he had plenty of preperatory matches on US soil, and like Peter Nowak, had a great deal more talent to choose from than his group opponents. And if they didn't want Gautemala to control their fate, then maybe they shoulda beat Canada. Or, maybe, Guatemala, even.

However, let me grump about the format one last time - I realize you can't play two games at once in the same stadium, but it's pretty obvious that if Mexico had beaten Haiti 54-0, then Canada would have beaten Guatemala 55-0. I know, the possibility of corruption in CONCACAF? Heaven forfend!

But since Mexico technically controlled their own destiny, the responsibility for keeping either the richest or the second richest federation out of the Olympics for two cycles running will fall on the coach, rather than the format. Which is just and proper. But someone should put up a stop sign at that corner before someone gets run over, is what I'm saying.

We'll see if there's such a thing as soccer justice. Four years ago, Mooch Myernick declined to lie down for Honduras in order to avoid Mexico, and his reward was a 4-0 pasting in the crucial game. Let's see if Guatemala profits by trying to avoid the US...again, assuming that even crossed their minds as Operation Screw Mexico was underway. But can you imagine if Guatemala and Canada both win the semifinal games? The final will be Canada letting Guatemala score a courtesy goal, followed by an eighty-nine minute cocktail party in the center circle.