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Know Your Opponent: Mexico Edition

Mexico, our neighbor to the South, is not very fond of us. Of the nearly 100 million inhabitants, I would reckon almost all would like nothing more than to whip us in the approaching World Cup Qualifier in Columbus. The ill feelings are mutual, I assure you, but I have to admit Mexico, despite its problems, does have an extremely rich cultural history.

Though Mexico did not become an independent nation until the early 1800s, it’s history goes back tens of thousands of years. By the sixteenth century, the Aztecs and Mayans had set up some advanced civilizations. The Spaniards liked the land and its bounty though, so they raped and pillaged the inhabitants and set up a new state with the name New Spain.

For nearly 300 years, Spain would control Mexico. But, the Mexicans would eventually shirk the Spanish in a long, bloody war and would finally be free to set up their own shop by 1821. The original country included modern day Texas, California, Nevada, Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, and parts of Colorado and Wyoming, as well as most of modern day Central America.

Texas would eventually best Santa Anna, and after the Lone Star State was annexed by the US, a long feud would begin between the two countries. Via everyone’s favorite way to settle international disputes (war), the US would eventually take almost 1/3rd of Mexico’s total land area. Nowadays, there is much controversy in the US about Mexicans illegally entering America to work, which they have done in the tens of millions.

Despite the exodus, Mexico still features the third most inhabited city in the world, Mexico City, where the Estadio Azteca is located. The Mexican National Team plays their home games in Azteca’s thin air. The team has made it to 13 World Cups, though they have never advanced past the quarterfinals. They have dominated the CONCACAF region though, winning seven Gold Cups, and they finished first at the 1999 Confederations Cup.

Their current squad is dangerous too, with many stars plying their trade in the world’s best leagues. Their strong side features Guillermo Ochoa (America), Rafael Marquez (Barcelona), and rising star Giovani dos Santos (Tottenham). Swedish manager Sven-Goran Eriksson has coached many of the world’s greatest professional and national teams, and he plans to have El Tri ready to compete come 2010. 

The upcoming match with the Mexicans should be entertaining, and I certainly hope it does not get too brutal, which it tends to do between these two teams. Mexico leads the all-time series 30-15 with only 10 draws. They have never lost to the US in Mexico, boasting a 23 game unbeaten streak.

Lately though, the US has made huge strides and Mexico has not beaten the Yanks on US soil this century. Moreover, in the lone World Cup Final match played between the two teams (a Round of 16 battle royale in 2002), the US bested the Mexicans 2-0. I hope we beat our rival again on February 11, 2009 in Columbus, but we need to be careful. They are still the region’s best team all-time, and we must keep improving in order to perhaps someday steal that title.

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