Giovani Dos Santos and Javier Aguirre were instrumental in Mexico's successful qualification
With only 6 points from 5 games, Mexico’s margin for error in the 2nd leg of the Hex was almost non-existent. Luckily for Javier Aguirre, CONCACAF’s Gold Cup was scheduled in between. He used the Gold Cup not to find cohesiveness with established players, but to find a new foundation of players from which to build the Tri. And for that, of course, he was heavily criticized in Mexico.
After 3 games, some lingering questions are becoming clearer. A few players have impressed, others are wasting the opportunity, and the rudderless ship that has been mired in a CONCACAF tempest over the past six months is showing faint signs of getting back on course. Mexico’s confidence can be classified at shaky at best, but we are starting to see the sparks of a chemistry and understanding that playing under 4 coaches in one year can easily erase.
If there was someone who needed to have a good tournament, it was Giovani Dos Santos. And he has not disappointed. He has been by far Mexico’s biggest threat on offense. Gio’s versatility up front has given Mexico something their offense hasn’t seen in a while: options.
The Gold served its purpose for Mexico, it got them playing with some form of shape and identity. But all the progress that they had made would be moot if they did not get the vital three points at home vs. the US.
To make matters worse (for me, at least), I would not be able to watch the game. I had to rely on the gamecast on my cellphone.
And with each passing screen refresh, the sweatier the palms got, and the deeper the pit in my stomach. And then I had the realization that I will have to turn off my cell phone once we are airborne. So I may not know for the next three and half hours what happened.
And this is displayed on my phone:
GOAL!! Juarez with a great hard run to the end line, drops it back to a wide open Sabah who finishes decisively. 2-1 Mexico.
The 2-1 victory over the US was huge, but when it was all said and done after match day 6, Mexico was right where they were at the beginning of the day: 4th place. They had to get points outside of Azteca, and they had to get more away points than Honduras. In CONCACAF, losing on the road is tolerated so long as you win at home. But losses at home have devastating consequences.
Costa Rica vs. Mexico. If Costa Rica lose this game, they will go from 1st to 4th just like that. Don’t think it can’t happen. Mexico won here back in 2005, and tied in their previous 2 other Hex games. For the first time all hex, Mexico will be playing a game where the pressure is on their opponents more than them.
Mexico made sure Costa Rica felt the pressure, and even ceded them possession for the better part of the game. They picked their spots to attack, and did so ruthlessly.
Thanks to Giovani Dos Santos.
Giovani Dos Santos added two sublime assists to his goal as Mexico crushed Costa Rica, 3-0. The win put Mexico into the qualifying zone and sent Costa Rica tumbling from first to fourth, with limited opportunities to crawl their way out. If Mexico is to qualify for the world cup, we’ll point to as the catalyst, the game that Giovani Dos Santos fireman-carried Mexico to South Africa. Just as Temo did in Jamaica eight years earlier.
It was the best individual performance of the Hex, and it put Mexico on the fast track to South Africa. Unfortunately for Gio, he was injured in a Carling Cup game not soon after and is just now getting back to action. Mexico needs him healthy and logging minutes. He’ll get his minutes, but something tells me he’ll be getting ‘em on loan in Pompy after Christmas.
After the Costa Rica victory, qualification to the world cup seemed merely a formality: Mexico sneaked past Honduras and were not going to be denied against El Salvador. Javier Aguirre found the right mix of players without having to resort to the same tired mix of veterans who had stagnated the team. Amazingly, these are the same players the Mexican media pleaded for before, and continue to politic for now.
Let us not forget, though, that Aguirre came in to clean up a horrible mess. The suits in charge of the FMF hastened decisions that were based on everything but the action on the field, and it almost cost them the ticket they covet most. They were lucky that Aguirre fell into their laps. He bailed them out.
The most memorable image for me in this 2009 was after Mexico had beaten the US at the Azteca. The FMF suits were celebrating like they had won the world cup. They tried to bring Aguirre into their celebratory frenzy. He would have none of it.
To me, he was telling them that they had won nothing, and he was there for the players and the fans. Not for them. They want him to stick around for 2014.
He’s not that crazy.