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England National Football Team Match No. 779

England 4 Mexico 0 [3-0]

Friday, 25 May 2001

Mexico Pre-Match

Mexico Background

Enrique Meza, born on 3 March 1948 in ciudad de México, was appointed national team coach on 14 September 2000 on the strength of his coaching credentials in Mexico's Primera División.  After head coaching stints with Cruz Azul, Atletico Morelia and Toros Neza, he led Toluca to three straight titles in the Verano or summer segment of Mexico's dual league contests.  

Meza succeeded Manuel Lapuente, who had considerable success with the national team, leading them to their first major tournament victory in the Confederations Cup of 1999, which was held on their home soil.  But pressure for a coaching change mounted as Canada's elimination of Mexico in the quarterfinals of the 1999 Gold Cup tournament,  the CONCACAF national team championship, was followed by an away loss to Trinidad & Tobago in CONCACAF's second round of World Cup 2002 qualification.  Lapuente resigned on 4 September 2000.  

Meza took charge 10 days later, and Mexico turned in acceptable performances in friendly victories over Ecuador and Bolivia and a 7-0 trouncing of Trinidad & Tobago in the return match at Estadio Azteca.   The honeymoon quickly ended as Mexico failed to score in the next four matches, drawing with Canada in a World Cup qualifier and losing friendly matches against the U.S.A., Argentina and Bulgaria, the latter their first home loss in more than five years.  Mexico managed to lose to Colombia in a January friendly after holding a two-goal lead and then lost to the U.S.A. 2-0 in February in the first match of CONCACAF's final round of World Cup qualification.  Since then they have staged a modest recovery in drawing 3-3 with Brazil in a scintillating friendly, beating Jamaica 4-0 in a World Cup qualifier and Chile 1-0 in a friendly, and drawing 1-1 away to Trinidad & Tobago in another qualifier.  

While the results have improved somewhat, Mexico's performances, with the exception of the Brazil friendly, have not, and Meza now finds himself subject to the intense pressures that forced his predecessor to resign.  Mexico's  loss of form has coincided with the long-term absence of two key midfield players, Cuauhtémoc Blanco of Real Valladolid (Spain), who sustained serious knee ligament injuries in the October qualifier against Trinidad & Tobago, and Ramón Ramírez ofTigres, who suffered a broken right ankle and a left Achilles tendon injury in a car accident in December.  Still, the grumbling continues--the Mexican press and public are short on sympathy and patience when Mexico fail to beat their CONCACAF rivals--and if Meza does not turn things around soon, it is likely he will be gone.  

As Mexico approach their match with England, Meza's record stands at 5 wins, 3 draws and 5 losses, much worse than Lapuente's.  For the first time, there is fear not only that Mexico have lost their supremacy in the CONCACAF region, but also that they may even lose their customary place in the World Cup final tournament.  Mexico have a tenuous hold on the third and last qualifying place in the CONCACAF group.

Mexico remain accomplished at maintaining possession--their passing game is often mesmerising--but without the playmaking skills of Blanco and the drive of Ramirez, they have been unable to convert dominance in possession into goals.  Meza has experimented with a large number of new players, but is still seeking a solution for the team's inability to find openings against even modest opposition and their lack of thrust in front of the opposition's goal.  

At the same time, Meza must guide Mexico through a singularly grueling summer programme.  Immediately after meeting England, they fly to the Far East for the Confederations Cup tournament, where they are in the same group as World Cup and European champions France as well as South Korea and Australia and are likely to meet Brazil in the semi-finals should they advance from the group.  Immediately after their return in mid-June, they play three World Cup qualification matches over a two-week period against Costa Rica, Honduras and the U.S.A., which may well determine whether they return to the Far East next year for the final tournament.  Following friendlies against Chile and Uruguay in early July, they go to Colombia in mid-July for the Copa América tournament, the Americas' equivalent of the European Championship, where they are in the "group of death" with  Brazil, Paraguay and Peru.  That takes them through the end of July.  By then, Meza should know his fate.

PY

World Cup 2002 Preliminary Competition CONCACAF Final Round
Team P W D L F A GD Pts
U.S.A. 3 3 0 0 5 1 +4 9
Costa Rica 3 1 1 1 5 3 +2 4
Mexico 3 1 1 1 5 3 +2 4
Jamaica 3 1 1 1 2 5 -3 4
Honduras 3 0 2 1 4 5 -1 2
Trinidad & Tobago 3 0 1 2 1 5 -4 1


The top three teams qualify for the World Cup finals.

 

Mexico Squad for the Matches against Ecuador, England & The Confederations Cup May 2001
Player Birthdate Age Pos Club App G
Abundis Sandoval, José Manuel 11-Jun-1973 27 F CD Atlante - -
Arellano Alcocer, José de Jesús 08-May-1973 28 M CF Monterrey - -

Jesús Arellano withdrew from the squad because of dental problems.

Beltrán Vargas, Joaquin 29-Apr-1977 24 D Club Universidad Nacional Autónoma de Mexico - -
Borgetti Echavarría, Jared Francisco 14-Aug-1973 27 F Club Santos Laguna - -

Jared Borgetti was picked for the Confederation Cup matches only.

Cabuto García, Erubey 06-Sep-1975 25 G CD Atlas de Guadalajara - -
Campos Navarrete, Jorge 15-Oct-1966 34 G CD Atlante - -

Jorge Campos withdrew from the squad due to club commitments.

Carmona Alvarez, José Salvador 22-Aug-1975 25 D CD Atlante - -

Salvador Carmona withdrew from the squad due to club commitments.

Chávez Fernández, Hugo Guillermo 16-Oct-1976 24 D Club Atletico Morelia - -
Coyote Tapia, Héctor Alberto 26-Mar-1967 34 M CD Guadalajara [Chivas Rayadas] - -
Dautt Bojorquez, Oscar Manuel 08-Jun-1976 24 G CF Puebla - -
Davino Rodríguez, Dulio César 21-Mar-1976 25 D CF América - -
De Nigris Guajardo, Antonio 01-Apr-1978 23 F CF Monterrey - -
Olmo Blanco, Joaquin del 20-Apr-1969 32 M CD Universidad Autonoma de Nuevo Leon [Tigres] - -

Joaquin del Olmo withdrew from the squad to undergo surgery.

Player Birthdate Age Pos Club App G
Osorno Calvillo, Daniel 16-Mar-1979 22 F CD Atlas de Guadalajara - -
Oteo Rojas, David Alejandro 27-Jul-1973 27 D CD Universidad Autonoma de Nuevo Leon [Tigres] - -
Pardo Segura, Pável 26-Jul-1976 24 D CF América - -
Pérez Gómez, Luis Ernesto 12-Jan-1981 20 M CF Monterrey - -
Rangel Torres, José David

12-Nov-1969

31 M CD Toluca - -
Reyes, Joaquín

20-Feb-1978

23 M Club Santos Laguna - -

Joaquín Reyes was picked for the Confederation Cup matches only.

Rodriguez Guerrero, Juan Pablo 07-Aug-1979 21 M CD Atlas de Guadalajara - -
Ruiz Del Valle, Víctor 07-Jun-1969 31 M CD Toluca - -
Ruiz García, Marco Antonio 12-Jul-1969 31 M CD Guadalajara [Chivas Rayadas] - -
Sánchez Ibarra, Oswaldo 21-Sep-1973 24 G CD Guadalajara [Chivas Rayadas] - -
Suárez Sánchez, Claudio 17-Dec-1968 32 D CD Universidad Autonoma de Nuevo Leon [Tigres] 155 -
Valdéz Martínez, Octavio 07-Dec-1973 27 D Club Atletico Pachuca - -

Octavio Valdéz was picked for the Confederation Cup matches only.

Victorino, Cesáreo 19-Mar-1979 22 M Club Atletico Pachuca - -

Cesáreo Victorino was picked for the Confederation Cup matches only.

Villa Castañeda, Germán 02-Apr-1973 28 M CF América - -

Germán Villa was unavailable for the England injury due to injury.

Notes

Wednesday, 10 January 2001 - The Football Association announced England will play a friendly match against Mexico at Pride Park, home of Derby County, on May 25, 2001.  The teams last met March 29, 1997 at Wembley Stadium, when England won, 2-0.  The match comes five days ahead of the start of the Confederations Cup 2001 tournament in South Korea and Japan, where Mexico will defend the intercontinental championship they won on home soil in 1999.

Wednesday, 2 May 2001 - Coach Enrique Meza announced an initial squad of 11 players for Mexico's friendly matches against Ecuador in Chicago on 19 May and England in Derby on 25 May and for the Confederations Cup 2001 tournament, which begins on 30 May in Japan and South Korea.  Meza will add to the squad as domestic clubs are eliminated from the ongoing Verano 2001 Tournament until the Confederations Cup squad limit of 23 players is reached.  

The 11 selected players are:  goalkeeper Oswaldo Sánchez, Guadalajara; defenders Joaquin Beltrán, UNAM, and Salvador Carmona, Atlante; midfielders Marco Antonio Ruiz, Guadalajara, Alberto Coyote, Guadalajara, Victor Ruiz, Toluca, Juan Pablo Rodriguez, Atlas, Hugo Chávez, Morelia, and David Rangel, Toluca; forwards Daniel Osorno, Atlas, and José Manuel Abundis, Atlante.

Thursday, 10 May 2001 - Coach Enrique Meza named six more players to the Mexico squad that will play Ecuador in Chicago and England in Derby before journeying to the Far East for the Confederations Cup 2001 Tournament.  

Veteran Atlante goalkeeper Jorge Campos, who had fallen into disfavour during Mexico's continuing string of mediocre performances, was recalled after an absence of two months.  Also recalled after a much longer absence was Tigres midfielder Joaquin del Olmo, who earned caps during the coaching tenures of Miguel Mejia Baron, Bora Milutinovic and Manuel Lapuente.  

Tigres defender David Oteo was given a first call to the national side.  Also summoned were the veteran defender Claudio Suárez, Tigres, midfielders Jesús Arellano, Monterrey, and Joaquin del Olmo, Tigres, and forward Antonio De Nigris, Monterrey.

The 17 players thus far named will play against Ecuador at Soldiers Field in Chicago on 19 May.  Meza is expected to name six more player before the squad departs for England, bringing it to the 23-man Confederations Cup limit.

Friday, 11 May 2001 - Mexico's match against Ecuador on 19 May at Soldiers Field in Chicago was cancelled as a result of the shooting last week of Ecuador's coach, the Colombian Hernán Dario Gómez.

Thursday, 17 May 2001 - Coach Enrique Meza announced the 23-man squad for the Confederations Cup 2001 tournament that begins on 30 May in South Korea and Japan.  The squad includes the 19 players who will be available for selection for the friendly match against England at Pride Park in Derby on 25 May.

Four players--the prolific Santos striker Jared Borgetti, the Santos defender Joaquin Reyes, the Pachuca defender Octavio Valdez and the Pachuca midfielder Cesáreo Victorino--will join the squad for the Confederations Cup after the England match.  Their clubs, Santos and Pachuca, are still involved in domestic competition; they play the second leg of the final of the Verano 2001 tournament Sunday.

Meza made some adjustments to the 17-man provisional squad he named earlier, dropping three players and adding nine.  Veteran national team goalkeeper Jorge Campos and defender Salvador Carmona withdrew because they will play in a promotional series for their club side, Atlante, in June. Midfielder Joaquin del Olmo of Tigres withdrew because he required nasal surgery.  Meza had given Campos and del Olmo recalls to the national squad, but the recalls were short-lived.

Three national team veterans, the 28-year-old forward Francisco Palencia, the 28-year-old goalkeeper Oscar Pérez and the 31 year-old defender Alberto Macías, were left out because their club side, Cruz Azul, has advanced to the semifinals of the Copa Libertadores tournament, the Latin American equivalent of the European Champions tournament.

The most notable omission from the squad was the superb young Monaco (France) defender Rafael Marquez, reportedly headed for Real Madrid this summer.  Meza gave no reason for his omission, but Marquez was sent off in April's World Cup qualifier against Trinidad and Tobago and will be suspended for Mexico's next qualifier against Costa Rica on 16 June.  He is eligible to play in the World Cup qualifiers against Honduras on 20 June and the U.S.A. on 1 July, but there has been speculation he may not be recalled to the national side until the Copa América tournament in Colombia later in July. 

Luis Hernández, the 32-year-old América forward who starred for El Tricolor in France in the 1998 World Cup, again was omitted from the national squad.  Following the conclusion of Mexican league play, he has returned to his "off-season" club side, the Los Angeles Galaxy in the U.S.A.'s Major League Soccer, where he will attempt to regain his form and his national team place.

Mexico are still missing two of their most influential players through long-term injuries.  Cuauhtémoc Blanco, the Real Valladolid (Spain) playmaking midfielder/forward, sustained serious knee ligament injuries from a vicious two-footed tackle by Trinidad & Tobago's Ansil Elcock in a World Cup qualifier in early October, and Ramón Ramírez, the 31-year-old Tigres midfield dynamo, suffered a broken right ankle and a left Achilles tendon injury in a car accident December 11.  Their absence has been chiefly responsible for Mexico's long string of mediocre performances.

Thursday, 24 May 2001 - The Mexican media report that Monterrey midfielder Jesús Arellano failed to show up as the national team departed for England on Monday.  Coach Enrique Meza reportedly said Arellano will be dropped from squad.  Arellano was quoted as saying he has had severe dental problems and that he notified national team officials he could not join the squad until they were resolved.

Friday, 25 May 2001 - The Mexican media report that midfielder Germán Villa will be unavailable for tonight's match because of an injury suffered in practice on Tuesday.

PY

England/Mexico FIFA Rankings Table
Year Jan. Feb. Mar. Apr. May June July Aug. Sep. Oct. Nov. Dec.
1992 - - - - - - - - - - - 05/25
1993 - - - - - - - 11/14 05/16 10/18 08/17 11/16
1994 - 12/17 12/14 16/13 15/13 15/16 18/15 - 18/16 17/18 16/19 18/15
1995 - 20/09 - 20/09 21/09 22/07 22/08 22/10 18/16 22/10 20/13 21/12
1996 24/08 27/10 - 23/12 24/12 - 13/14 13/14 12/13 12/15 12/11 12/11
1997 - 12/11 - 14/12 13/12 07/12 08/10 07/09 07/11 07/10 06/11 04/05
1998 - 05/04 05/04 05/04 05/04 - 10/12 10/12 11/10 10/11 11/10 09/10
1999 11/12 11/12 11/12 10/13 11/13 13/14 14/11 14/09 12/10 12/10 11/10 12/10
2000 12/10 11/10 11/10 13/08 12/08 12/08 15/13 13/14 14/13 15/11 16/11 17/12
2001 17/12 17/12 16/12 14/13 14/13 - - - - - - -

 

Mexico Results
No. Date Opposition Venue Type F A Result H.T.
552 09-Jan-2000 Iran Oakland Coliseum, Oakland, U.S.A. F 2 1 NW [2-1]
553 12-Jan-2000 Guatemala Memorial Coliseum, Los Angeles, U.S.A. F 1 1 ND [0-1]
554 19-Jan-2000 Romania Estadio Tecnológico, Monterrey F 3 1 HW [2-1]
Romania were effectively a UFC Rapid Bucuresti team augmented by two home-based players, and were accompanied by Rapid coach Mircea Lucescu rather than recently-appointed national team coach Emerich Jenei. Mexico's squad included five under-23 players drawn from the squad seeking to qualify for the Olympic Games 2000 tournament in Australia.  FIFA does not list this match among Mexico's official results.  
555 05-Feb-2000 Japan Hong Kong Stadium, Hong Kong T 1 0 NW [0-0]
556 08-Feb-2000 Czech Republic Hong Kong Stadium, Hong Kong T 1 2 NL [0-0]
Mexico were runners-up in the four-team Carlsberg Cup 2000 tournament, behind the Czech Republic and ahead of third-place Japan and fourth-place Hong Kong XI.
557 13-Feb-2000 Trinidad & Tobago Qualcomm Stadium, San Diego, U.S.A. T 4 0 NW [1-0]
558 17-Feb-2000 Guatemala Memorial Coliseum, Los Angeles, U.S.A. T 1 1 ND [1-1]
559 20-Feb-2000 Canada Qualcomm Stadium, San Diego, U.S.A. T 1 2 NL [1-0]
1-1 full-time, 1-2 after first period of extra time, 1-2 after exta time.  Mexico were eliminated in the quarter-finals of the Gold Cup, the championship of the region governed by The Football Confederation, formerly known as CONCACAF, which was won by Canada.  
560 04-Jun-2000 Republic of Ireland Soldier Field, Chicago, U.S.A. T 2 2 ND [1-0]
561 07-Jun-2000 South Africa Cotton Bowl, Dallas, U.S.A. T 4 2 NW [2-0]
562 11-Jun-2000 USA Giants Stadium, East Rutherford, New Jersey, U.S.A. T 0 3 AL [0-1]
Mexico finished third in the four-team Nike U.S. Cup 2000 tournament behind first-place U.S.A. and second-place Republic of Ireland and ahead of fourth-place South Africa.  Mexico were represented by an under-strength squad drawn almost entirely from club side UNAM Pumas and coached by Hugo Sanchez rather than national team head coach Manuel Lapuente, who did not accompany the squad to the tournament.  Nonetheless, FIFA lists these matches among Mexico's official results. 
563 01-Jul-2000 El Salvador 3Com Stadium, San Francisco, U.S.A. F 3 0 NW [1-0]
564 05-Jul-2000 Venezuela Estadio Tecnológico, Monterrey F 2 1 HW [1-1]
565 16-Jul-2000 Panamá Estadio Rommel Fernández, Panamá City WCP 1 0 AW [0-0]
566 23-Jul-200 Trinidad & Tobago Hasley Crawford Stadium, Port of Spain WCP 0 1 AL [0-0]
567 15-Aug-2000 Canada Estadio Azteca, Santa Úrsula, ciudad de México WCP 2 0 HW [0-0]
568 03-Sep-2000 Panamá Estadio Azteca, Santa Úrsula, ciudad de México WCP 7 1 HW [3-0]
569 20-Sep-2000 Ecuador Qualcomm Stadium, San Diego, U.S.A. F 2 0 NW [1-0]
570 27-Sep-2000 Bolivia Spartan Stadium, San Jose, U.S.A. F 1 0 NW [0-0]
571 08-Oct-2000 Trinidad & Tobago Estadio Azteca, Santa Úrsula, ciudad de México WCP 7 0 HW [4-0]
572 25-Oct-2000 USA Memorial Coliseum, Los Angeles, U.S.A. F 0 2 AL [0-0]
573 15-Nov-2000 Canada Varsity Stadium, Toronto WCP 0 0 AD [0-0]
Mexico finished second in the four-team Group C of the semifinal [second] round of the CONCACAF preliminary competition for World Cup 2002 qualification behind first-place Trinidad & Tobago and ahead of third-place Canada and fourth-place Panamá.  Both Mexico and Trinidad & Tobago advanced to the final [third] round of the preliminary competition.   
574 20-Dec-2000 Argentina Memorial Coliseum, Los Angeles, U.S.A. F 0 2 NL [0-1]
575 24-Jan-2001 Bulgaria

Estadio Morelos, Morelia

F 0 2 HL [0-0]
576 31-Jan-2001 Colombia Memorial Coliseum, Los Angeles, U.S.A. F 2 3 NL [2-1]
577 28-Feb-2001 USA Crew Stadium, Columbus, Ohio WCP 0 2 AL [0-0]
578 07-Mar-2001 Brazil Estadio Jalisco, Guadalajara F 3 3 HD [1-0]
579 25-Mar-2001 Jamaica Estadio Azteca, Santa Úrsula, ciudad de México WCP 4 0 HW [2-0]
580 11-Apr-2001 Chile Estadio Tecnológico, Monterrey F 1 0 HW [0-0]
581 25-Apr-2001 Trinidad & Tobago Queen's Park Oval, Port of Spain WCP 1 1 AD [0-1]

Notes

Wednesday, 24 January 2001 - Mexico lost to Bulgaria, 2-0, in Morelia, 250 miles west of ciudad de México, their first home loss in more than five years.  While Mexico had an edge in possession, Bulgaria, lacking nearly all its foreign-based players, survived early first half pressure and scored two second-half goals on deliberately-placed long-range shots that eluded the diving Jorge Campos.  It was Mexico's third 2-0 loss in four matches, a string broken only by a scoreless World Cup qualifying draw against Canada in November, and the fans booed Mexico's players as they left the pitch.  

Mexico have been hampered by the long-term absence of three of their most influential players: Cuauhtémoc Blanco, the Real Valladolid (Spain) playmaking midfielder/forward who sustained serious knee ligament injuries from a vicious two-footed tackle by Trinidad & Tobago's Ansil Elcock in a World Cup qualifier in early October and will be sidelined until at least March; Ramón Ramírez, the Tigres midfield dynamo who suffered a broken right ankle and a left Achilles tendon injury in a car accident December 11 and, following surgery, will be out of action until at least June or July; and Rafael Márquez, the highly-rated Monaco (France) defender who underwent surgery to correct a groin hernia in December and is expected to return in late February.  Still, despite the absence of  key players, Mexico's recent performances have raised questions about the tenure of coach Enrique Meza, who took over the team when Manuel Lapuente resigned last September. 

Wednesday, 31 January 2001 - Mexico ended their streak of four scoreless matches but managed to lose an early two-goal lead as Colombia came back in Los Angeles to win 3-2 on two second-half goals, the winner coming in the last minute of play.  Perhaps the decisive moment in the match came in the 85th minute, when Pavel Pardo was red-carded for kicking Colombia midfielder Alexander Viveros after pulling him down, leaving Mexico shy a man on the back line.  A 2-2 draw still appeared likely, but as Colombia pressed at game's end, Mexico defender Omar Blanco missed the ball while trying to clear it 35 yards from the Mexico goal.  The blunder allowed Colombia forward Nestor Salazar, who came on at the beginning of the second half, to steal the ball and presented him with a clear path to the goal as Mexico's remaining defenders scrambled to cover.  Salazar eluded onrushing goalkeeper Oscar Pérez, himself a half-time replacement for Jorge Campos, and calmly cut the ball back into the net from a sharp angle a few seconds before the final whistle.  Defender Claudio Suárez made his 151st appearance for Mexico, passing retired German defender Lothar Matthäus and moving into second place on the all-time international appearances list behind still-active Egyptian midfielder Hossam Hassan, who has 154 caps.

Friday, 2 February 2001 - Mexico coach Enrique Meza summoned a 24-man squad for the approaching World Cup 2002 qualifying campaign following several matches in which he gave younger players a chance to impress.  The team that will face England May 25 is likely to be largely drawn from this squad.  Still missing through long-term injuries, however, are Cuauhtémoc Blanco and Ramón Ramírez, the national team's leaders and best playmakers, as well as Rafael Márquez, the highly talented young defender.  Mexico's first match in The Football Confederation's [CONCACAF's] final [third] World Cup qualification round is against the U.S.A. in Columbus, Ohio on February 28.  A friendly match against Canada scheduled for February 21 in Washington, D.C., U.S.A. has been cancelled.  

The full squad:  
Goalkeepers: Oscar P
érez, Cruz Azul; Jorge Campos, Atlante; Oswaldo Sánchez, Guadalajara. 
Defenders: Alberto Macias, Cruz Azul; Omar Blanco, Toluca; Salvador Carmona, Atlante; Joaquin Beltrán, UNAM; Claudio Suárez, Tigres; Pavel Pardo, Am
érica; Sergio Almaguer, Necaxa; Duilio Davino,  América; Marco Antonio Ruiz, Guadalajara.   
Midfielders: Germán Villa, Am
érica; Victor Ruiz, Toluca; Alberto Coyote, Guadalajara; David Rangel, Toluca; Luis Ernesto Pérez, Necaxa; Jesús Arellano, Monterrey; Javier Lozano, Atletico Morelia; Miguel A. Zepeda, Atlas.   
Forwards: Jos
é Manuel Abundis, Atlante; Jared Borgetti, Santos Laguna; Luis Hernández, América and Los Angeles Galaxy; Juan Francisco Palencia, Cruz Azul.

Monday, 5 February 2001 - It was announced that Mexico will play Australia February 21 in San Jose, U.S.A., a week ahead of their World Cup 2001 qualifying match against the U.S.A. in Columbus.  The match replaces a friendly against Canada arranged for the same date in Washington, D.C. but later cancelled.

Friday, 9 February 2001 - Mexico cancelled their match with Australia, scheduled for February 21 in San Jose, U.S.A., because promoters were having difficulties finalising arrangements.

[FILL IN MATCHES AGAINST USA, BRAZIL, JAMAICA AND CHILE.]

Wednesday, 25 April 2001 - Defender Pavel Pardo's tremendous blast from 25 yards to the far corner of the net in the second half gave Mexico a 1-1 draw against Trinidad & Tobago (T&T) in a World Cup 2002 qualification match at Queen's Park Oval in Port of Spain.

After three matches, Mexico and Costa Rica share second place in the The Football Confederation's [CONCACAF's] final qualifying group with four points and the same goal difference, both five points behind the U.S.A., who have won all three of their matches.  Jamaica have the same number of points as Mexico and Costa Rica, but their goal difference drops them to fourth place.  The top three teams in the group will qualify for the World Cup final tournament.

Defender Marvin Andrews gave T&T the lead in the 14th minute when he climbed above several Mexico defenders to head in Angus Eve's corner kick.  Mexico pressed but could not find a way through the T&T defence despite holding a man advantage for 40 minutes.  T&T's Eve was ejected in the 35th minute for a deliberate off-the-ball foul on Francisco Palencia and Mexico's superb young defender Rafael Márquez, reportedly headed from Monaco to Real Madrid this summer, followed in the 75th minute when he incurred his second booking of the match.

Pardo's 61st minute shot--plainly taken in recognition that Mexico were not going to pierce the shell T&T had set up around their goal and that he might as well try his luck from longer range and hope for a miracle--saved Mexico from total disgrace.  Mexico television commentators greeted Pardo's effort with repeated cries of "golazzo," but there will still be grumbles about Mexico's persistent failure to convert dominance in possession into goals.

Most of the game was played at a slow pace, neither team exploiting their well-known speed in attack, perhaps because the rock hard pitch and uneven surface made ball control difficult.  It was a disappointing climax to a pre-match build-up featuring a lot of gamesmanship from both sides with T&T's football federation promoting the game as "war" and Mexico's federation issuing a stream of complaints about the warlike atmosphere, primitive lodging facilities and poor pitch conditions.  

There is no love lost between these two teams.  When they met in the region's second preliminary World Cup qualifying round at Estadio Azteca last October, T&T defender Ancil Elcock, who also played today, crippled Cuauhtémoc Blanco with a vicious two-footed studs-up tackle which drew a red card and a three-match suspension from FIFA.  Blanco, the Real Valladolid (Spain) playmaking midfielder/forward, suffered serious knee ligament injuries and probably will not return to the national side until this summer.  Mexico have also missed Ramón Ramírez, the Tigres midfield dynamo who suffered a broken right ankle and a left Achilles tendon injury in a car accident last December, and, following surgery, will be out of action until at least June or JulyMexico's loss of form has coincided with the long-term absence of these two key players. 

T&T chose the Oval, normally a cricket ground, as the venue for today's match over their usual ground, Hasley Crawford Stadium.  Mexico vigorously protested to The Football Confederation (formerly CONCACAF) and FIFA, claiming the hostility engendered byT&T's promotion campaign, coupled with the poor condition of the Oval ground, made it unsafe to play there.  T&T offered to move the match to their usual ground, but only on the condition that Mexico move the return match away from ciudad de México, thus eliminating the tremendous advantage that city's 8,000-foot altitude gives the Mexico team.  Mexico refused the offer, of course, and retaliated by refusing to give T&T their plans for lodging in T&T and claiming there were no suitable lodging facilities in Port of Spain.   T&T, in turn, denied Mexico entry to the ground for a practice session when they turned up three hours later than their allotted time.  The Football Confederation and FIFA threw their hands up in disgust and rejected Mexico's protests.  There may be more protests to come, and the return match at Azteca Stadium is likely to be a lively affair.

Luis Bueno, a journalist who follows the Mexico team closely, has said the squad's focus is all wrong, that they should be concentrating on recovering their form on the football pitch rather than whining about poor accommodations, the hostile atmosphere and uneven pitch conditions.  He also believes the Mexico Football Federation's protest was a pretext  calculated to furnish a ready-made excuse for the team should it lose or to support claims of a magnificent victory accomplished in difficult conditions if the team won.

This desultory draw will provide no comfort to Mexico, still mired in a long string of mediocre performances, as they prepare for their next match, against England at Pride Park in Derby on May 25, and a few days later, their defence at the Confederations Cup 2001 tournament in Japan and South Korea of the intercontinental championship they won on their own soil in 1999.

____________________

PY/CG