If Uruguay it the blue touch paper to ignite this World Cup and Argentina stoked the flames, Mexico threw a bucket of petrol over it today with a scintillating displayand historic two nil win against the hapless French.
Recent Manchester United signing Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez put Mexico ahead in 64 minutes after latching on to Rafael Marquez pass, and the win was sealed 15 minutes later when their veteran, hit-man Cuautemoc Blanco coolly, converted a late penalty.
It was a well deserved win for the Mexicans who constantly pressed and attacked a French team that looked disorganized and at times disinterested despite all that was at stake. Straight from kick off Mexico were more inventive and fluid with their passes, constantly troubling the opponents defence, winning the midfield battle and nullifying the feeble, French attack.
The result now leaves “El Tri” in touching distance of qualification with the knowledge that a draw against Uruguay will ensure a spot for both teams in the next round. The loss leaves France floundering and dependant on goals and the unlikely possibility of high scoring defeat for either Mexico or Uruguay.
History was against Mexico for this game as they had never managed to beat the French at senior level in a time span leading back to the first World Cup in 1930 and the first ever World Cup fixture. But records are meant to be broken and Mexico seized their chance with both hands.
Mexican coach, Javier Aguirre fielded a largely unchanged starting line-up despite the obvious concerns from the opening encounter against South Africa. Hector Moreno was swapped for Paulo Aguilar in defence, Perez remained in goals and the midfield and attack was unaltered in a 4-3-3 formation.
The opening encounters were marked by long range efforts from France’s Frank Ribery which were easily collected by Perez or closed down by an alert Mexican defence. Totenham Hotspur misfit Giovani Dos Santos again looked enthusiastic early on and impressed with darting runs and cute link up play which troubled a lethargic, looking French midfield . The referee decided to mark his influence on the game with a harsh booking for Guillermo Franco and but in the main he was letting the match flow from end to end.
France’s Frank Ribery
The first good chance fell to Arsenal’s Carlos Vela in seven minutes from a Rafael Marquez high ball over the defence which by-passed the offside trap. With only the keeper to beat Vela smashed his shot high over the crossbar failing to trouble France’s no.1 however it was a sign of intent from the Central Americans and a warning the French failed to heed. The play then swapped to the other side but when Nicolas Anelka maneuvered himself into a shooting position but was quickly closed down by a determined Marquez.
Four minutes later Franco collected high ball on the edge of France’s goal but after switching the ball to his right foot he struck the ball well over the crossbar. But the Mexican’s continued to attack and on the left Carlos Salcido twice outpaced the defence to create scoring opportunities but his first shot was dragged wide then his second blasted straight into the chest of goalkeeper, Hugo Lloris.
In 29 minutes Vela was injured after seemingly over stretching in the tackle, a straight replacement was made for Pablo Barrera who made an immediate impact when he almost connected with Salcido cross. Unusually, Mexican high balls where constantly, troubling the French defence who were failing to clear the ball. In 38 minutes another flick from the air was trapped by Giovani 20 yards out who then swiveled into space but shot wide to the right hand side of Lloris’ goal.
The first half was played out with a few half chances for each team and while both teams had created it was clear that Mexico were playing with more intent and determination.
Raymond Domenech replaced an unimpressive Anelka for Andre Pierre Gignac at the start of the second half in a bid to awaken a slumbering French team but Mexico started unchanged. Chelsea’s Florent Malouda tested Perez from distance immediately but the goalkeeper did well to tip the Frenchman’s shot over the bar and when Ribery shot from a similar distance two minutes later again Perez parried the effort wide.
The second half had started at a slower pace and play was being bogged down in midfield. Efrain Juarez earned a stupid yellow card for pushing Patrice Evra which prompted his substitution but in turn provided the opportunity for Javier “Chicharito”Hernandez to shine in 55 minutes. Much has been expected of the new, Mexican superstar and when given the opportunity he did not disappoint. Aguirre was obviously mindful of his team’s blunt edged attack as in 62 minutes Franco was hauled off for talisman, Cuauhtémoc Blanco in an effort grab a vital opener.
Juarez earns his stupid yellow card
Just 2 minutes later Chicharito fed a ball to Marquez in midfield and despite the paucity of space the Mexico captain was composed enough to lift a high ball over the defence eliminating the tame French offside trap. Chicharito had time to gather the ball, shimmy past the French goalkeeper and slide the ball into an open goal. It was just reward for the Mexican’s and they celebrated wildly in the far right hand corner in a jubilant, stramash of players and coaching staff.
The French were on the ropes and Mexico were determined to knock their opponent out and finish the game off. In 79 minutes Barrera swiveled past Evra with ease and sped into the box only to be crudely, fouled by Abidal leaving the referee with only one option.
Up stepped the Blanco who coolly, slipped the ball low into the right hand side of Lloras’ goal in turn becoming the first Mexican to score in three World Cup finals. The celebrations were wild and richly deserved for the Mexican’s. They had bossed the French and added a cutting edge to their well renown creativity and imagination in attack.
Blanco scores in his 3rd World Cup
Barring a miracle turnaround in 5 days time Mexico will ensure a second round berth against Uruguay the question that remains is whether or not they want to repeat the last World Cup and face an impressive Argentina from Group B.
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