SAN JOSE, Costa Rica – Mexico awakens from one nightmare to find itself in another. The oneiric transition has been a scene of horror and disaster.
The Mexican national team can find no peace in any sequel after an unbroken sequence of lost wars, and in territories where there's neither provision nor pause for any truce.
Note: there are no plaudits for reaching the wretchedness of the repechage. There is, to be sure, relief that dangerously comforting sensation of not having died despite having experienced danger.
And from relief at having avoided failure one passes to complacency: the convict on death row deserves no pardon, but someone else, the U.S.A. in this case, has obtained it for him —by accident.
Note: I would reiterate that the wretchedness of the play-in is not always an unworthy process. It's simply a matter of healing the wounds of despair through consolation. Will it hurt those involved? Of course it will.
Of course, there are means of honoring or of dishonoring the situation of a playoff to determine a World Cup spot. Let's take a few examples: there are teams like Uruguay that made it to their playoff (against Jordan) without humiliation (despite the appalling diving of Luis Suarez), because the Uruguayans have made it out of a prolonged and exhausting group competition. Should Portugal and France be going into raptures of excitement at finding themselves flung into this area of pre-World Cup definition?
- Faitelson: Mexico doesn't belong in the World Cup
But Mexico's situation is another matter. To reiterate: it's like going from one nightmare to another. From defeat to defeat in a habitat where we were used to being the richest, the most storied, the best organized, the strongest, the one that has attended more World Cups than any other. When all is said and done this is now just useless, insignificant tinsel; with the exception, much as it increasingly seems to be more myth than legend, of having won Olympic gold in London 2012.
Mexico today cannot possibly feel proud of its current situation, nor can it celebrate, nor gorge itself, nor show off, nor presume in any way to be the master of New Zealand in the battle to win the World Cup rescue ticket, because when all is said and done, the truth is exactly what the realists are claiming: that at this level El Tri can only aspire to the role of a chamberlain, an ephemeral consort, a pageboy in the magnificent procession of the World Cup.
What makes Mexico's arrival in the playoff even more regrettable and unworthy is that it wasn't actually capable of getting there itself, but owed it to a hand-me-down. And what's even more embarrassing is that it was its splendid and despised adversary who presented it the gift of a safe-conduct into the playoff —albeit accompanied by a good cuffing.
It's a ticket to the playoff that's been handed as part of an undeserved fluke by a U.S. team that worthily upheld its will to win, which by then was totally unnecessary, although it allowed it to emerge as head of its group for the World Cup.
Does Mexico have any future in the playoff? From a soccer standpoint, New Zealand isn't much better, but at this point the whole of CONCACAF has shown itself to be better than Mexico.
1. It wants to play the home game at two in the afternoon to take advantage of the toxic chemical mix of altitude, heat, and pollution in the Estadio Azteca.
2. Playing the first game at home means that it will only have to waste one journey, while New Zealand will have to face the consequences of jet lag on both the outward and inward legs.
According to the specialists, the human body takes one day to recover for every time zone traveled, although for high-powered athletes this is one day for every two time zones traveled.
3. Mexico will request a South American referee for this match while FIFA ought to select between a European, an African, or an Asian one.
It shouldn't be forgotten that, despite Central American requests made via CONCACAF, Mexico managed to have Central American referees for its meetings with Panama and Costa Rica.
But the most important thing is that the team finds committed players. Let me reiterate: forget the Europeans, who continue being selected while being neither decisive nor significant factors in the team. In this way, beginning with the friendly against Finland in San Diego, the domestic players can take full advantage without them and their coach having to suffer the consequences of this distressing obligation to select those legionaries who have yet to win a single war.