Sports-Column Repost #12
On the Mark: A Bad Stretch for Mexican Soccer
By Mark Lorenzana
(Originally posted on July 11, 2022, in PNM)
It hasn’t been a good stretch for Mexican soccer lately, and that’s putting it mildly.
On the night of Thursday, July 7, the Mexican national women’s soccer team was dealt a painful loss, 0-3, by regional upstart Haiti in the group stages of the Concacaf W Championship. The crushing blow came several days after losing 0-1 to the Jamaican national women’s team on Monday, July 4.
The two straight losses have put El Tri Femenil, which was initially seen as the prohibitive favorite in the tournament — which, incidentally, is being held in the team’s homecourt of Monterrey, in the northeastern Mexican state of Nuevo León — in a compromising position. The team is now currently at the bottom of Group A, which means that El Tri Femenil is officially out of the running for the knockout round of the tournament. What’s worse is that the Mexican national women’s soccer team — which was once seen as a shoo-in for a direct spot in the 2023 Women’s World Cup — is now on the outside looking in.
A few weeks before the tournament kicked off, the hosts were confident and appeared rounding into form. Ahead of the Concacaf W Championship, team manager Monica Vergara and her club had a 10-game undefeated streak under their belt, punctuated by an impressive 52 goals scored throughout that run. The team is also composed of young and talented players from the Liga MX Femenil. Indeed, it appeared as though the Mexican national women’s soccer team was ready to show the soccer world a new powerhouse in the North American region, which has been dominated so far by the United States.
“Everyone is going to see a Mexico that they’ve never seen before,” a confident Vergara said before the match against Jamaica.
Eight minutes into the game against Jamaica, however, the visitors easily scored against the home team on a perfect header by Khadija “Bunny” Shaw. Mexico couldn’t respond, and Jamaica cemented the upset win against El Tri Femenil.
“That loss won’t define us. We’re going to continue our process,” Vergara said after the game. “It’s simply a slipup on our part, and we’re going to work on our upcoming games.”
The “slipup” devolved into a full-fledged collapse in the game against Haiti. Similar to the match against Jamaica, the Mexican national women’s soccer team went down 1-0 early on in the first half when Haiti took the lead in the 14th minute. Mexico was scored on two more times and couldn’t recover.
Several days before El Tri Femenil’s debacle against Jamaica and a week before the massacre against Haiti, Mexico’s U-20 team suffered a shocking defeat to underdog Guatemala, on Thursday, June 30, at the quarterfinals of the pre-World Cup tournament in San Pedro Sula, Honduras. The loss took Mexico out of the running to qualify for the 2023 Under-20 World Cup, as well as the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris.
And then on June 8 of this year, the Mexican daily newspaper Reforma, in a sports column, pointed out a disappointing stretch of games by the Mexican men’s national soccer team where it failed to win a single game against opposing teams that have also qualified for the upcoming 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar in November. El Tri, in that span, only managed three draws and five losses.
However, Guillermo “Memo” Ochoa, the national team’s longtime goalkeeper, and Gerardo Martino, team manager, weren’t worried — at least at that time.
“We’ve been planning and preparing for these types of games. These games are mostly for preparation,” said Ochoa. “I understand that people, they don’t like it because of the results, because of what they perceive as the performance of the team in these games. But it’s normal. It’s just a matter of adding things to what we’ve always been doing.”
“I was worried, yes, but that was when we lost to the United States and Canada in November of last year,” Martino said. “Now we try to play well.”
There are only four months left before El Tri embarks on its campaign for the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar.
So should Mexican soccer fans press the panic button already after this recent bad stretch for Mexican teams?
It remains to be seen, but it’s definitely hard for fans to keep their hopes up, considering the recent collective showing of the men’s, women’s and U-20 soccer teams.