The exhilarating and remarkably good Mexican national team took on South Korea today in a match that I personally, as a true Stars and Stripes-loving American patriot, was absolutely dreading.
Oh no, goddamn Mexico again, I thought to myself while scanning today’s World Cup schedule. This cool-ass team, these talented and well-coached players—they’re probably going to do something awesome again, aren’t they? I fought down the vomit I felt creeping up my chest and hoped my growing nausea wouldn’t overwhelm me once the fun things I was sure I’d soon be forced to endure, but could take no pleasure in because I root for the U.S. and U.S. fans are duty-bound to despise everything El Tri, commenced.
I thought back to Mexico’s first match of the World Cup against Germany, a 1-0 Mexican victory that is still and very well could remain the single biggest upset of the entire tournament. I remembered sitting there in a packed bar not far from my apartment, watching wave after glorious wave of Mexican counterattacks slicing the reigning World Cup champion’s defense into ribbons in an awe-inspiring display of athleticism and technical precision and tactical ingenuity. I remembered the palpable excitement that suffused the entire bar from the moment I got there until the moment I left, the air as thick as molasses with it, Mexicans and Americans alike cheering for the green-clad warriors to seal the victory they so richly deserved. I remembered how much I detested every second of that, and how I rued the behavior of my traitorous fellow Americans in that bar, those who so unthinkingly rejoiced in the atmosphere and the brilliant play when everyone should know by now that because the U.S. and Mexico are soccer rivals and other soccer rivalries around the world are extremely intense American fans are expressly forbidden from enjoying anything Mexico do on the field.
Well, maybe this game will be bad and boring with no goals and definitely no cool moments by Mexico’s cool players, I prayed before today’s match began. That was not to be. Mexico were solidly in control from the beginning, and Carlos Vela scored a penalty in the 26th minute to put Mexico in the lead. The most memorable moment of the first half was probably this mazy Lozano run that would’ve been a joy to watch if I weren’t a good American and thus compelled to groan in agony with every step Lozano—probably the World Cup’s breakout star—took:
Ugh, my stupendously loyal American brain said to me. It’s going to be a long day.
Mexico continued controlling the game, though it wasn’t always comfortable. Those stretches when Mexico attempted to keep the ball safe by maintaining possession were definitely my favorite parts of the match, as it was much better to see Mexico play boring than the electrifying, fast and furious way that has brought them their success. Because I’m an American who loves the USMNT, which means I have to hate Mexico.
The worst was unquestionably the moment in the match when Lozano picked up a ball in transition, burst through the heart of South Korea’s defense, poked the ball over to Hernández, and Hernández sat a defender on his ass with a subtle but deadly feint move before plunking the ball into the back of the net to give Mexico the 2-0 lead. It was gorgeous, which is to say it was disgusting for a Mexico-hater like me:
Just look at how ecstatic Chicharito was right after scoring that goal. He was practically exploding with joy. That he managed not to burst into tears of happiness right then and there is a minor miracle, and I can’t describe you much rage this otherwise incredibly touching display inspired in my red-white-and-blue heart.
With this win, Mexico are locks to make it into the Round of 16. The team is in form, in great shape, confident, and has a playing style that has already proven its effectiveness against the best teams in the world. As favorites to win their group, there’s no telling how far this despicably great Mexican team can go. And as a proud American I pledge to continue watching every amazing thing Mexico do and poking myself in the eyeballs while they do so to demonstrate the unending depths of my American spirit.