World Cup 2014: Semifinal Round, Matchday 4 Review
Posted on September 13, 2012 3:23 pm
As it turns out, the three-horse narrative held up.
The expected minnows in each group (Antigua and Barbuda, Guyana and Cuba) lived down to their roles in defeat, racking up a cumulative record of 0-10-2 in this stage; and while the Leones del Caribe have already been eliminated from contention, Guyana and Antigua and Barbuda find themselves in need of improbable victories over Mexico and the United States, respectively, to retain even half a chance of reaching the Hexagonal. More likely, the Golden Jaguars and the Benna Boys will utilize the remaining World Cup fixtures as preparation for their upcoming Caribbean campaigns, as both will attempt to qualify for their first-ever Gold Cup at the end of the year.
Nonetheless, it is worth noting that only one of Tuesday’s World Cup qualifiers in our region ended with a margin of two goals or more. A brilliant strike from Carlos Ruiz made the difference in Guatemala’s 1-0 close call at Antigua, Salvadoran keeper Dagoberto Portillo parried away a Guyanese penalty in injury time to safeguard a 3-2 win, and a late goal-line clearance prevented the Cubans from stealing a point in San Pedro Sula. The remaining Caribbean contestants similarly came up short, as Jamaica waited until a Herculez Gomez free kick put the US ahead to break out of their defensive posture, threaten Tim Howard’s goal and attempt to avoid the eventual 1-0 setback.
We will get to the team that suffered the worst outing in a moment, but first:
All hail the Kings of CONCACAF.
TEAM OF THE ROUND
The defending Gold Cup champions have already sealed their place in the Hexagonal, locking up first place in Group B with two matches to go and hardly a scratch along the way. The aztecas largely underwhelmed in their second-straight triumph over Costa Rica, although Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez managed to defy his lackluster form by scoring the game-winner off a pinpoint header from Jorge “Pichu” Torres Nilo’s cross. But if their offense has yet to get out of first gear, their composure in this round has been nothing short of impressive. I suggested after their imperious Gold Cup success that Jose Manuel “Chepo” de la Torre’s side still faced the challenge of proving themselves on the road, given his mediocre record with Toluca under similar circumstances. But whereas Mexico only achieved one away point in the same round in 2008 (under Sven-Goran Eriksson), this time they achieved back-to-back victories in the normally daunting visits to El Salvador and Costa Rica. Neither side were played off their own field, but Jesus Zavala and co. kept control of proceedings and took advantage of set-piece opportunities in order to maintain what is now a spotless 4-0 record. For certain teams that rely on home results against the ratones verdes in the Hex, the sight of Mexico grinding out wins in Central America is most unwelcome.
Then again, neither cuscatlecos nor ticos have managed to win a single home game in this round. In fact, only one Central American country has successfully negotiated all its home fixtures to date: the Panamanians registered a fourth-straight victory at the Estadio Rommel Fernandez as they overran Canada 2-0 to regain control of Group C. Normally, the visiting Reds would have pulled off the unenviable feat of sinking from Hero to Goat in consecutive matchdays; but there is a far more heinous result of this week’s action that I must address (right-click on “View Image” to see it in full).
GOAT OF THE ROUND
Gabriel, cartoonist, Medio Tiempo
For non-Spanish-speakers, a direct translation:
Tico: I’ll strike the towers of your good football and your home surroundings.
Mexican: With paper planes that will be very difficult.
Anyone need to guess on which day this was posted?
If it were some obscure artist who decided to use a national tragedy for comedic purposes, one could chastise me for unintentionally promoting his or her material. But a four-hour connection in the Mexico City International Airport this summer gave me a glimpse into how big Medio Tiempo is there: the sports updates posted on monitors throughout my terminal had been imported from mediotiempo.com. Their viewership extends throughout the Hispanophone mainland portion of CONCACAF, and I am hard-pressed to believe that their trio of cartoonists (Gabriel, Qucho and Ubaldo) are ignorant of this reality.
In spite of this, and in complete abandonment of good taste, Gabriel decided to mark the anniversary of 9/11 in the United States by inserting a knocking-down-towers joke into his preview of the Mexico-Costa Rica showdown (and yes, “el 11 de septiembre” also marks the 1973 coup d’état in Chile, but I fail to decipher any reference to Pinochet overthrowing Allende in the cartoon). Furthermore, this is not his first infringement of the line of common decency. This gem was published on September 11, 2011:
Morelia monarch: They’re not towers, nor twins, but…
Queretaro rooster: They fell all the same!
My American upbringing included a commitment to the rights enshrined in the US Constitution, among them the freedom of speech. Recognizing the pitfalls of applying it outside of its cultural and legal context, I will simply state that Gabriel is as free to make sport of 9/11 as I am to condemn his disgraceful and reprehensible work.
UPDATE: The offending cartoon from this week has since been taken down.