MEXICO CITY – Mexico may not have rustled up a win in their first two World Cup qualifiers, but El Tri fans are confident of victory in the Estadio Azteca against the United States on Tuesday (10:30 pm ET; ESPN and Univision).
“I’m predicting a 3-0 win, Chicharito with two goals, [Andrés] Guardado with the other,” Mexico shirt-wearing Javier Durán told MLSsoccer.com outside the Catedral Metropolitano, in the very heart of Mexico City, Sunday morning. “Losing is not an option against the United States. We have to win.”
Mingling with locals coming out of the Palm Sunday mass in Mexico’s capital, it’s clear to see that interest in the US game is growing, as befits the rivalry between the two teams. More than 105,000 tickets have already sold, according to various reports in Mexican newspapers.
That doesn’t mean everyone is aware of every single detail about the game and many of the dozen or so people questioned cited Landon Donovan – that traditional focal point for the hatred of Mexican fans – as the biggest threat to a home victory come Tuesday.
“Landon Donovan is their most dangerous player, but we have our own players that can cause damage,” said Chivas fan Lorena Álvaro.
Amongst the optimism, however, were some signs of concern.
Honduras’ comeback from 2-0 down on Friday to snatch a draw against El Tri left a bad taste in the mouth of fans, and memories of the US’ 1-0 smash-and-grab win back in August of 2012 have not been erased.
Then there was that 0-0 draw in the Azteca against Jamaica last month, which ended with home fans booing El Tri and shouting raucous “Olés” whenever the Reggae Boyz strung together a pass or two.
“We have to get better, start playing more like the Olympic [gold-medal winning] team did,” chimed in Club América fan Adrián Alonso. “The players need to improve to avoid an embarrassing defeat to the United States.”
Mexico players have not spoken to the press since Friday’s draw (they will do so on Monday), with coach José Manuel “Chepo” de la Torre shepherding his players away from waiting journalists after the Honduras game.
The pressure is certainly on El Tri after three games without a win in 2013 and while optimism is still high, the people are on edge. Should the US be leading or tying after the hour mark, it may not take much for the unrest be heard inside the stadium.
“I don’t think there will be any need to boo,” protested Durán. “Mexico has to come good soon, and I think it’ll be against the Americans.”
Tom Marshall covers Americans playing in Latin America for MLSsoccer.com. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.