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Por ser día de tu santo …

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I just want to give a huge shout-out to my TRI-ista-in-arms and occasional running buddy, who celebrates a birthday today. And she timed it well — right before the start of the CONCACAF hexagonal stage. There’ll hopefully be much to celebrate today and in the coming months on the road toward Brazil 2014.

Just 493 days left!!

Los pajarillos cantan qué?

 

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London-bound. Let’s keep the hookers out of the hotel, eh?

The big news of the weekend — Mexico is going to London! Yeah, BABY!!!!

The top two teams of the region automatically go to the Summer Olymics. Though there’d be some bragging rights to winning CONCACAF’s Olympic qualifying tournament, the real goal was getting out of semis. And, Mexico did just that in a 3-1 victory over Canada. Tomorrow is the final.

But more than that, this was redemption for the Sub-23 Mexican team. 2011 was a red-letter year for Mexican soccer. Chicharito and friends stampeded through the CONCACAF Gold Cup and came back from behind to win the championship over the U.S. (There they are hoisting the Gold Cup trophy.)

The chavitos hosted the U-17 World Cup and had a Hollywood-esque game against Germany in the semi-finals. Complete with Olympic goals, bandaged heads and bicycle kicks. They won the whole thing and swept the awards — Gold, Silver and Bronze Balls. (There’s Julio Gomez rocking a bandage.)

And then we get to the Sub-23 team. What did they do? Well, they were sent to particpate in South America’s Copa America — where they had an epic fail, losing every single game.

But the drama started well before when eight players were suspended and sent home. Allegedly, some of the players invited prostitutes into their hotel. And those ladies of the night ended up stealing a lot of valuable electronics. Instead of keeping mum, the players report the stolen stuff. An investigation reveals the prositutes and the rule-breaking. Who would have thought differently?

How do you heal that wounded pride…? Win an Olympic bid for your country. I mean that will shut me up.

PHOTOS (from top): Mexico celebrates during Saturday, March 31 win over Canada; Andres Guardado, Gio Dos Santos and Chicharito celebrate Gold Cup win; U-17 player Julio Gomez kisses Golden Ball award.

Chuy Corona’s Road to Redemption

Proving there’s life after head-butting a coach, José de Jesús Corona is officially back on with the Mexican National Team.

He’s joining the sub-22s this month during the 2011 Pan American Games in Guadalajara.

Kudos to one of our favorite (read: hottest) Mexican goalies. His track record with the national team has been spotty. Twice he’s been called up — for a World Cup, and most recently the Gold Cup — and both times he’s been booted because of his bad boy personality. Personally, we think that’s a plus. But apparently, in the power-player circles, it’s a no-no to make your point using your head. More so when that head is aimed at an opposing coach’s face. Ouch!

I’m also digging how introspective he is:

“Honestly, I did not know if I’d ever be back with the national team. I’ve been given a new opportunity and since I got the news, there’s been a big commitment on my part. I know that we are role models for many kids and fans, and it’s going to be important to demonstrate that at every moment.”

-From Univision article (link in Spanish)

Wait, so you’re saying this isn’t appropriate action for a role model?

FIFA rankings mean shit… for now

I’ve said before that the FIFA World rankings are more or less meaningless if I don’t like the results.  I also said that I’d praise them as scripture if I like what they report.  If you haven’t guessed it by now, I’m back to firmly thinking they’re worth shit.  I’m not at all happy that I had to crop such a large box so Mexico could be included. Blasphemy!

What follows is my tirade of the Top 3 reasons why this is BS:

N0. 1

Out of the 20 teams listed above, only five5!! — played any games in this period that went toward their ranking.  Those would be the Latin American teams that took part in the Copa America in Argentina last month — Brazil (#4), Uruguay (#5), Argentina (#10), Chile (#11) and Mexico (#20).

The teams that haven’t done anything should move, bitch. Get out the way.  Instead, they rest on their laurels and see their positions basically unmoved for months on end.  Montenegro, for example.  After some very shallow digging, Montenegro has only played TWO games this year and their average ranking is 101.

Which leads me to point No. 2

Many of the teams I was just blazing against have actually played the last month.  One key arena was the U-17 World Cup held in Mexico.  The Netherlands, England, Germany, France were all present and fighting for the title of the best in the world.  But they came up short.  The team who won and the ones that did so in Hollywood-perfect flair was the young, scrappy Mexican team.

These games aren’t counted toward the ranking because they’re kids.  They’re 17 years old or younger.  Of course they wouldn’t count toward the legitimate Grade A team your nation can produce.

I’m making a point here, stick with me for No. 3

And so, if we’re not going to count the kids because they’re not the first-string team, then why should we count Mexico’s disappointing performance in the Copa America?  That wasn’t their A Team.  Mexico was invited, as it usually is, to fill out the competition since CONMEBOL only has 10 teams.  Because the Gold Cup ended literally days before the start of Copa America, Mexico sent a lesser team, made up primarily of lady-of-the-night-loving sub-22s.

Ok, Ok, that last point was a stretch.  I’m trying to make myself feel better.  And I’m still pissed that Argentina — which showed it matters shit if you have the Best Player in the World — is still in 10th place. Arghh!!

What’s with all the drama queens?

CONCACAF — in all its iterations and manifestations — is nothing but a teenage drama queen.

Why can’t I just focus on the somewhat mediocre play — highlighted by Mexican brilliance — and be done with it? But nooooo, they just have to throw salt all up in my Gold Cup cheerios.

The 2011 Gold Cup just ended in spectacular fashion this weekend in front of a record 93,420 crowd at the Pasadena Rose Bowl. Yeah, most fans were pro-Mexico. That’s a given. Even if the final had not been between Mexico and the U.S., most of the fans would be pro-Mexico. It’s just the nature of the game, the location, the fans, the chance to be on Univision… The stars and stripes had no chance to cash in on a home-field advange (Drama #1).

But Mexico did make it — unbeaten and as the heavy favorite. Even without five of their original players who earlier tested positive for banned clenbuterol (Drama #2).

Alas, they fell behind (Drama #3). But you know what shuts up a a small USA-rooting minority in the stands? 90,000 fans drowning them out when the opposing team erases any advantage before the end of the first half (Drama #4)…

… Taking the lead in the 50th minute (Drama #5) and running circles around a fallen goalie for the cherry-on-top comeback (Drama #6).

Ok, some of the drama is good. All of it really. That’s what makes these games great fun to watch. That’s why, as a Mexico fan, you don’t leave the stands and try to beat the traffic when your team is down 0-2. That’s why you DVR the game even though you’re watching it from Section 13 of the Rose Bowl.

Enter Drama #7:  Tim Howard calling the mostly Spanish closing ceremony a “fucking disgrace.” Did he ever consider it being just “fucking practical” (See Drama #1)?

That’s it. That’s all I’m saying. I’m not going to get into what Timmy said, what he meant, if it’s right, if it’s racist.

Once you’ve peeled away all this drama, I hope you’ll see that this was an amazing game. Such resolve on both ends of the field.

CONCACAF has been faulted in the past for many things, not least of which that it really only has two dominant teams. The level of competition — looking at you, Cuba… sorry — isn’t that high. So winning the Gold Cup shouldn’t have been that difficult to do for either Mexico or the U.S.

Honestly, what this win is more than anything… is a ticket to the Confederations Cup in Brazil in 2013, a dress rehearsal for the World Cup!

PHOTO: Andres Guardado, Gio dos Santos, Chicharito celebrate during the final ceremony at the Pasadena Rose Bowl (Getty Images)

 

We don’t need no Iker

In case you missed Wednesday’s friendly between Mexico and Bosnia-Herzegovina, here’s a recap. Mexico won. Chicharito scored. A streaker stormed the field. And Cruz Azul goalie Jose de Jesus Corona was named MVP.

If you want a recap of the game, go here, here or here. And this link will take you to video of the  streaker.

I’m leaving the analysis to the experts who get paid to talk about how great or disappointing little pea was. That’s not what this post is about. This is about Corona—Jota Jota not the beer.

What I came away with is that Mexico may have dropped in standing worldwide, it may not be able to show better than quarterfinals at a World Cup, but it remains consistent in its streak of good-looking goalies. Those are really the stats that matter, right? And that’s the reference the title of this post makes… Iker being quite smashing.

MY EVIDENCE:

A.)  Starting in the 1990s, Jorge Campos, goalie during the 1994 and 1998 games, was one of the most eccentric goalies who loved to play outside the box (likely residue from his other field position when not in goal—striker). But if you could just peel away the distracting elements of his, umm, ‘colorful’ attire and the voluminous ’90s haircut, you’d realize… not too shabby.


B.)  Oscar Perez overlaps with Campos, especially in the late-1990s. He was called up to the 1998 games in France and 2002 Japan/Korea with him. And, again, in 2010 as one of the oldest mo-fos playing. (I’m looking at you too, Cuau!) I’m not saying it was easy finding a suitably attractive photo of the man. I will say there is some value in that shaved-head, no nonsense, tough guy, goateed look he sports. You be the judge.


C.)  With Oswaldo Sanchez, we return to the pretty boys of the goal. The Santos goalkeeper has been called up for three World Cups, beginning with France in 1998. It wasn’t until Germany 2006, that he became the top guy between the posts. His one flaw—and really could it be considered a flaw?—is that he’s dangerously close to a unibrow. Personally, I think that’s needed to keep him from being too pretty.


D.)  Luis Michel was the third goalie that Javier Aguirre took with him to South Africa last summer. The Chivas goalie became captain of his team last year and oversaw their historic 8-0 opening run and he was the talk of the town in last summer’s Copa Libertadores.


E.)  Here we have Memo Ochoa. One of The Faces of the Mexican national team. Anywhere you turn you see this guy with his bouncy curls—commercials, billboards, etc. Too bad for all that hype you didn’t see a minute of him in South Africa. Aguirre preferred the more experienced Conejo to this baby face of Club America. Now, he’s the national frontrunner…


F.)  I say ‘now’ because after Wednesday night’s performance and what seems like an incredible work ethic. Jota Jota Corona from Cruz Azul could take the top spot. He’s got the qualifications—called to the national team, called to a World Cup (No. 2 in Germany), quick reflexes, impressive saves… chiseled features.

PHOTO: Corona blocks a shot during Mexico’s 2-0 win over Bosnia-Herzegovina; pics of Jorge Campos, Oscar Perez, Oswaldo Sanchez, Luis Michel, Memo Ochoa, Chuey Corona

And they’re off!

It seems like another lifetime ago when World Cup fever held my blog hostage. All I wrote about was Mexico and Mexicans, Chicharito, South Africa, vuvuzelas and “puuuuutos“.

Well, rewind because it’s back.

The road to Brazil 2014 is on today with a friendly game against Bosnia-Herzegovina held at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta. Game starts at 8 p.m. EST, and as always Univision will be there to make what will likely be an interesting matchup that much more dramatic. Breathless commentary has that effect. Their coverage begins at 7:30 p.m. EST (4:30 p.m. out here on the West Coast).

This is a debut for Mexico’s new coach—José Manuel “El Chepo” de la Torre—so we’re expecting a talent-heavy roster (site in Spanish). Nothing like that bunch of third-stringers the U.S. played against Chile last month. Bosnia hasn’t stepped down either. It looks like their coach has called on the country’s biggest talents.

“The fact that I invited our best players is very telling that this match must be taken very seriously. I am very familiar with the game of [the Mexicans], there are no friendly matches where they don’t give their maximum,” Safet Susic said on the Football Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina website.

PHOTO: Chicharito celebrates after scoring during 2-0 victory over France in Polokwane, South Africa/ June 17, 2010