13
Nov

Five points: Mexico v New Zealand, World Cup Qualifying Playoff

Mexico’s place in the World Cup should not rest upon success in a two-legged playoff against New Zealand. This tiresome process should have ended long ago. It has not for a host of reasons. And the ongoing series of failures ensures El Tri still has work to do to secure a place in Brazil next summer.

It is not an easy task, either. New Zealand offers committed and organized opposition. Mexico once again boasts a significant edge in technical ability, but it must close the difference in other, more rudimentary departments in order to see off the All Whites and travel to Wellington next week with a hefty advantage in tow.

Interim boss Miguel Herrera expects his charges to emerge victorious at Estadio Azteca. If they adhere to the game plan and note these five points along the way, then they should finally meet expectations and place both hands on a World Cup berth before leaving Mexico City:

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23
May

Liga MX Liguilla: Cruz Azul take 1-0 lead over Club America

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Photo: Getty Images

By Kyle McCarthy

Cruz Azul claimed a 1-0 victory over bitter rivals Club América in the first leg of the Liguilla final on Thursday night, but the modest margin between the teams leaves both sides with a chance to lift the trophy.

Both sides failed to hit their best in a bland affair hindered by the rainy and slippery conditions at Estadio Azul and tempered by the looming second leg at Estadio Azteca on Sunday night.

América manager Miguel Herrera played his part in removing some of the excitement by naming a conservative side (the usual 5-3-2 setup with the now customary pair of holding midfielders) and telling his players to keep the match as narrow as possible inside their own half. The approach worked for the most part with in-form winger Pablo Barrera only a fleeting influence on the proceedings.

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27
Mar

USA fans brave the hostile Azteca

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A very large contingent of USA fans made the trip to the famed Estadio Azteca on Tuesday night to watch their country take on Mexico. The U.S. came away with an historic point, only their second in history against El Tri at Azteca in qualifying. A truly impressive feat.

There were many incredible images from the action on the pitch, but just as many taken of the brave supporters in the stands. Photojournalist Douglas Zimmerman captured every single moment from these (slightly crazy) fans on their journey in Mexico City. You definitely want to check these images out — very incredible shots.

26
Mar

Earthquake rattles Mexico City, World Cup qualifier still on

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Image from @NickRimando

By Leander Schaerlaeckens

Mexico City, Mexico

On the morning of the most tempestuous soccer game in the region between archrivals Mexico and the United States, an earthquake shook the country. The US Geological Survey measured its magnitude at 5.5 while Mexico’s Seismology Service registered it at 5.9.

Buildings reportedly swayed here in the capital city, 227 miles northwest of the quake’s epicenter, while earthquake alarms sent people fleeing into the streets in some parts of the country. No damage was reported anywhere across town, however. In the southern section of Mexico City, where the US is staying a few miles away from the Estadio Azteca, where the game will be played, the earthquake was barely even felt.

It hit at 7.04am local time, followed by a slightly milder aftershock eight minutes later, and most people slept through it. A US Soccer spokesman said only a few team-members even noticed the tremble. Defender Omar Gonzalez took to Twitter and joked about the earthquake to his followers, saying “first a snow storm… Now an earthquake? We’re not messin’ around!”

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As such, the early-morning rumble isn’t expected to have any effect on Tuesday night’s game whatsoever. The US is primed for a tough contest in difficult conditions – altitude, smog, more than 100,000 raucous Mexican fans with a habit of hurling objects and liquids at the Americans – and this blip will barely register.

The US team goes into Tuesday night’s game full of confidence – “110,000? Yes, please,” US forward Herculez Gomez tweeted Monday night. “If this doesn’t get you going then you don’t have a pulse.” – having taken its first ever win at the Azteca in 25 tries last August. And a minor incident like a shudder in their beds will hardly dull their focus and desire.

As Gomez told journalists on the eve of the game, “Anything can happen.” That includes earthquakes, and its impact on the US team will be same as it was on local infrastructure – non-existent.

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24
Mar

Soccer all day, every day

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By Leander Schaerlaeckens

MEXICO CITY

From every nook and cranny they had streamed to the little Astroturf field in the park in the middle of their working class Alamos neighborhood. Seven, eight, nine years old. There must have been a hundred of them, delineated by their snazzy replica uniforms of the world’s big clubs, but with their own names on the back. They’d come to play soccer.

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Some of them were big, some small. Some were good, some not. But they all played with a fanatical abandon that bordered on the maniacal. All day long. No matter the 85 degree temperatures, which rose steadily on the plastic field. On and on it went, teams playing 30-minute games and then shuffling through the gates of the tall fences to make way for another pair of teams. Those who weren’t in a game just then played on the side, or between shrubs, or underneath the bleachers. Overhead rabbled exotic birds, invisible on the branches of the tall trees behind the curtain of lilac flowers.

They weren’t so different from seemingly everybody else across this magnificent city on a pleasant Sunday, playing on every expanse wide enough, and those not quite suitable too, every vacant space sucked into soccer’s spell on this country.

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