FIFA World Cup: Curse of Beating Mexico

“Termina el partido en Arena Samara.” — by @miseleccionmx
“Termina el partido en Arena Samara.” — by @miseleccionmx

After a stunning win over Germany, Mexico instantly became contenders to win the World Cup. Their dreams were crushed after two miserable losses to Sweden and Brazil. Sweden and Brazil paid for their victories. So has every team that has handed Mexico a loss.

The “Mexican Curse”

Regardless if you believe in any superstitions, the ongoing failure is an interesting fact to follow. Over the last couple of decades, every team that has defeated Mexico in crucial games eventually faced a brick wall; on the road to championship gold. Let’s recap Mexico’s most noticeable eliminations.

FIFA World Cup

For seven straight World Cups, Mexico qualified, sometimes just by an inch. Their performance has become a standard routine, exit by the Round of 16. On multiple occasions, it seemed like they were finally going to breakthrough into the quarter-finals, but it wasn’t meant to be. As for the team that beats them, failure is secured; immediately or on the long-run.

In the 2010 World Cup, Mexico was drawn into Group A, alongside South Africa (host), Uruguay, and France. Of the three, Uruguay beat El Tri and made it to the semi-finals. The Netherlands (we’ll get there) stopped them right there and forced Uruguay to compete for 3rd place. Germany ended up getting the win, leaving Uruguay in 4th.

On the topic of the 2010 World Cup, when Mexico faced Argentina in the 2nd round, Argentina trashed them 3-1. Carlos Tévez’s goal was controversial, as his goal was clearly offside. Regardless, it stood. Argentina moved on to face Germany. The White and Sky-Blues took a brutal beating; worse than what they gave Mexico. Die Mannschaft scored four unanswered goals. Ironically, a consolation goal by Argentina was overturned; due to it being offside. To add insult to injury, both teams met in the 2014 final, only for Argentina to lose by a last minute goal. As of 2018, the championship drought continues.

Next; the 2014 World Cup. This one was interesting and it seemed like the losing streak was over. El Tri pulled off amazing matches against Croatia and Brazil, with the latter being the most impressive. Mexico finished in 2nd place and faced the Netherlands next. Giovani Dos Santos scored early in the 2nd half and the lead was held with dear life up to the 88th minute. Wesley Sneijder’s shot found the back of the net. With a few minutes left, Mexico had to maintain possession, run the clock, and force extra time. Well, that didn’t happen. Arjen Robben made it into the box and Rafa Márquez “stepped” on him. The penalty was awarded and Klaas-Jan Huntelaar converted the penalty to eliminate Mexico. Thus “No Era Penal” was born.

The infamous moment that led to “No Era Penal” and countless memes. — by Bleacher Report
The infamous moment that led to “No Era Penal” and countless memes. — by Bleacher Report

The Dutch barely escaped Costa Rica on penalties; and advanced to take on Argentina. Regular and extra-time weren’t enough and the match went to penalties. It was bad right away, as Vlaar failed to score the first. After Robben kept his team alive, Sneijder botched his shot to send his team home. A controversial penalty took them to the next round and on penalties they got eliminated. “No Era Penal” morphed into “No Van al Mundial” as the Flying Dutchmen didn’t qualify for Russia.

When we found out that Mexico was drawn into Group F (aka the “Group of Death”) it looked like any hopes were crushed right away. Their opponents were Sweden (without Zlatan), South Korea, and Germany. To make matters worse, Germany and Mexico opened up the group. In shocking fashion, Mexico beat the champions, 1-0. That was a punishment in the works. More on that later. El Tri’s hype was their own undoing, with Sweden getting an easy 3-0 victory (eliminated in the next round).

Regardless, thanks to South Korea defeating Germany, Mexico moved up to face Brazil. What should have been an even encounter turned into a circus. PSG star, Neymar, spent a total of 14 minutes (according to various sources) on the ground after flopping. It became quite understandable that Mexico began getting frustrated due to Neymar’s antics. Brazil went on to win 2-0, Belgium being their next opponent. Brazil’s 2014 7-1 defeat to Germany was about to be put to rest and the World Cup drought was coming to an end. Nope. The omens were bad from the beginning. Fernandinho opened up the match with a ridiculous own goal. De Bruyne added to their lead with a goal at the 31st minute. Renato Augusto gave his team hope with a goal at the 76th minute. It was merely a pity goal to send Brazil back home.

Confederations Cup

Mexico’s only shining moment in a FIFA tournament was in the 1999 Confederations Cup, as they won the it. Everything after that was a walking disaster. Between the 2001 and 2017 editions, Australia, France, South Korea, Argentina, Germany (twice), Brazil, Italy (twice), and Portugal took down El Tri. All of those teams had a huge downfall after their respective wins. France was eliminated in the group stage of the 2002 World Cup and lost the final to Italy in 2006 (via penalty shootout). Despite the home advantage, South Korea ended in 4th place at the 2002 World Cup. Argentina doesn’t need a long description, as they are also still feeling the effects of Maradona’s “Hand of God” goal. Germany had to settle for third place in two consecutive World Cups and eventually lose to Mexico in the 2018 World Cup (after beating them in the 2017 edition). Brazil was torched in their last two matches of the 2014 World Cup. Portugal beat Mexico for 3rd place in 2017, but was tossed out of this World Cup in the group stage.

Copa America

While the Copa America is a CONMEBOL tournament, Mexico has been a frequent guest. In 2017, Chile dismantled Mexico 7-0 before reaching the final to beat Argentina. The price to pay was losing the Confederations Cup final and not qualifying for the 2018 World Cup. Chile’s story ever since the Copa America; spicy, to mild, to nothing. For shame.

Just maybe, this is soccer’s way of saying, “…let Mexico win”. Sure, Mexico’s tournament records (outside of the Gold Cup) are some of the most obscure, but it’s a relatively interesting pattern to follow, every time they lose. In the end, wins and losses over certain teams are difference makers in the players’ mindset. Mexico’s own inconsistency not only effects the team itself, but also who beats them. Outside of UEFA and CONMEBOL, El Tri is the only team outside those confederations capable of winning the big one. When? We don’t know.