Thursday, May 27, 2010

Rough Day for Mexico

Mexico struggled to a 2-1 loss to Holland yesterday, with a pair of first-half goals from a seemingly recovered Robin van Persie opening the scoring, before a header from Javier Hernández halved the lead in the second. (Incidentally, we already knew this, but Hernández has some impressive leaping ability.) The loss led to the following explosion from José Ramón Fernández, one of Mexico's most famous sports commentators:
[Fernández] said that the political problems through which Mexico is passing "are a laugh" next to the power that the national team has, and added that the government must lay the groundwork for a loyal competition in Mexican football and, in general, in the communication outlets.


[The networks use] impressive marketing manipulation to make money. If told you what has come out of Cablevison, of Sky, it's all boatloads, boatloads and boatloads of money, because the sponsor and the advertiser think that Mexico, essentially that's what the directors of the networks make them think, that Mexico will make it to the quarterfinals of the World Cup.
He went on to say that Azteca and Televisa have "kidnapped" Mexican soccer, and also referred to Mexican soccer as a disaster. Obviously this is all rather hyperbolic, but even removing the hyperbole, I don't understand the complaint about the networks (which is favorite complaint of Fernández and others). Of course they tend to inflate Mexico's chances. What's unethical about that? And what's the connection between the networks' meddling and the performance on the field? OK, so Televisa boss Emilio Azcárraga's opinion carries too much weight. That's unseemly, but is that why Mexico hasn't had a reliable forward since Borgetti's star dimmed? Is the theory that Televisa and TV Azteca are not allowing the players to develop properly?

More generally, Mexico suffers from a willful rather than realistic pessimism regarding its soccer team. They lost but held their own in a pair of games against odds-makers' third- and fifth-most likely World Cup winners. That's about the best a second-tier team like Mexico can realistically expect. Brazil and Spain can expect to walk into Wembley and outplay England for 90 minutes, but no one else in the world can. Losing to England and Holland wasn't exactly the fulfillment of the inevitable, but nor was it a surprise. I don't quite understand the hysteria. Worry when Mexico loses to Senegal, or Uruguay.

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