Two mistakes sunk Mexico against Argentina. The second one was a horrible error by defender Ricardo Osorio after Mexico was already down 1-0. But the first mistake, one that changed the course of the game, can’t even be blamed on El Tri.
Mexico had handled Argentina’s attack as well as anyone up until the 26th minute, when Lionel Messi found some open space in the back and threaded a ball to teammate Carlos Tévez. The striker had his shot blocked by goalie Óscar Pérez, but Messi chipped the ensuing rebound over the defense and back onto Tévez, who headed the ball in to register Argentina’s first of the night.
But there was one problem. Tévez was four feet offside, a small detail that linesman Stefano Ayroldi didn’t see. Before reinitiating play from the center circle, the Mexicans complained to referee Roberto Rosetti that the call was bogus and pointed to the huge screens in Soccer City Stadium, which showed the replay, as evidence. Rosetti, however, followed FIFA’s rules and let the goal stand.
“The official’s error is quite clear,” said Javier Hernández, who pulled one back for Mexico late in the game. “He realized it and he could’ve changed the call, but I don’t know why he didn’t.”
That erred call was the second of the day (earlier, England midfielder Frank Lampard hit an apparent equalizer off the crossbar against Germany that wasn’t credited) and it completely changed the momentum and the game and the affected psyche of the men clad in green.
Only minutes after that first goal, Osorio committed the error that led to La Albiceleste’s second goal and effectively doomed Mexico.
“In the first few minutes, we were superior,” said Mexico head coach Javier Aguirre. “But then we conceded a goal that was offside. When we were settling down [after the goal], we give up the second. It’s two mistakes that dramatically and drastically changed the course of the game.
“We wanted to play a better game, but the two goals killed us,” said Aguirre. “Clearly, after two gross errors, it’s difficult to do much. I’m definitely going away disappointed.”
Mexico’s initial strategy was to contain Argentina’s offense and use long-range efforts to score on La Albiceleste, which nearly worked around the 10-minute mark, when a shot by Carlos Salcido rang the crossbar and another one by Andrés Guardado barely curled wide.
Then, as Mexico pushed forward early in the second half, Tévez buried a spectacular strike to give Argentina their third. El Tri surged late in the game, with Hernández scoring a great goal himself, but it was too little too late and the Mexicans bowed out of the tourney with a 3-1 loss.
Nonetheless, Aguirre feels that his team should feel proud and have a bright future ahead.
“We did what we could, we lost with our heads held high and played with dignity,” he said. “It’s a great generation of Mexican players, 10 or 12 whom will be in the next World Cup.”
In Brazil 2014, Hernández, Giovani dos Santos, Carlos Vela and Pablo Barrera are just some of the names bound to reappear for El Tri in the world's biggest stage. Mexico’s "Golden Generation" may yet prove their moniker correct.
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