Dead Team Walking

Mexico may want to think twice before playing a tournament in Argentina again. Since falling flat on their face in Argentina '78, Mexico has failed to advance past the first round in an official senior-level tournament only twice. One of those is this year’s Copa America.

It was never going to be easy for Mexico from the get go. Jack Warner didn’t want Mexico to play at all. But with pressure from both FMF and CONMEBOL, he relented, so long as they play the Copa America with a U23 squad + 5 reinforcements. Captain Jack didn't want to share his cash cow with anyone.

The FMF did themselves one better by then limiting the squad to a U22. It was going to serve as a prep tournament for Olympic qualifying. Kinda weird, right? But since Mexico’s medal chances at the Olympics are very limited, the TV companies can make their money selling the futbol team, provided they make it (right, Hugo?).

Carlos Vela was excluded on the Gold Cup squad so he could play Copa America. Arsenal, though, had other ideas.

The first few friendlies did not bode well for the squad, but slowly, surely, the team started to play better together. Their last tune-up before the tournament gave Mexico fans hope. The mini-tri defeated Ecuador in Quito a week before the tournament. And it was precisely in Quito where the self-inflicted death blow took place. A prostitution scandal led to the removal of 8 players, most of whom had taken the pitch in the friendly vs. Ecuador. Emergency replacements were flown in, but with such little time to prepare, and the team gutted, what good could they really do?

So a limited team was limited even more. And in a group that included Chile, Peru, and Uruguay, it was a dead team walking. And they certainly played down to expectations as well.

Sure enough, 3 games lead to three defeats. 0 points. 1 goal, and a whole lotta nothin’. The teenage midfield played like… teenagers against real live professionals. Giovani Dos Santos was in isolation, and his strike partner, Rafael Marquez Lugo was in witness protection. The team looked like they were playing to avoid the blowouts than trying to win.

The coach, Luis Fernando Tena, consistently lined up players outside of their comfort zones, and made amateurish mistakes on all of things, the timing of substitutions. He could not motivate his players, or even give them a hint of a spark.

The whole thing was a mess from start to finish, and it was in no way respectful to the oldest international tournament on the planet. One would think that CONMEBOL would have had enough and put the kibosh on any future participation, but….

Yesterday, CONMEBOL agreed to keep inviting Mexico to future editions of the tournament. Mexico is even in the running to host the thing, possibly even in 2015. Interim CONCACAF president, Honduran Alfredo Hawit, said Mexico might be able to field a full strength team at future Copa Americas.

This year’s, though, was a real stinker, just like Argentina ‘78.