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Mexico headed for a second Azteca debacle?
by Mike Woitalla, March 26th, 2009 7AM



[HEXAGONAL] Costa Rica remains the only team to beat Mexico on Mexican soil in World Cup qualifying, and the Ticos aim to repeat the feat on Saturday (TV: Telemundo, 6 pm ET) in the teams' second game of final round World Cup qualifying. The Mexicans are nervous, for sure, having gone four games without a win in Concacaf qualifying while its Federation chief lamented on Wednesday that the nation's soccer is in crisis.


Mexico squeaked into the Hexagonal and lost its opener against the USA, 2-0, in February. And it has been struggling at all levels, failing to qualify for this year's U-20 World Cup, last year's Olympic Games (U-23), and the 2007 U-17 World Cup two years after lifting the title.

"The results that we have had -- not qualifying for the Olympic Games and the [U-20 World Cup] -- cannot be hidden," said Mexican Federation boss Justino Compean. "It's obvious that we have reached a period of stagnation and nobody can deny it.

Meanwhile, Costa Rica travels to Azteca stadium having scored 22 goals in their last seven games, all wins.

In 2001, Costa Rica under Coach Alexandre Guimaraes beat Mexico, 2-1, with a late winner from Hernan Medford in Azteca Stadium. Both Mexico and Costa Rica qualified for the 2002 World Cup.

El Tri will be without captain Rafa Marquez, who was red-carded against the USA. Coach Sven-Goran Eriksson's team has scored just twice in its last four official games. The Mexicans did succeed in their last outing, a 5-1 win friendly win over Bolivia.

"Mexican soccer has a deep-rooted problem and that's the cause of the bad patch we've been going through," Marquez, who plays for Spain's Barcelona, told "Our soccer is stagnating. Sometimes I feel we're being left to fend for ourselves."

Compean said, "In not getting results, we have failed in our planning. This is not a recent thing and it's our responsibility, which we are not going to shirk."

Two members of Mexico's current squad were in the roster for the 2001 debacle, known as the "Aztecazo," against Costa Rica: Pavel Pardo and goalkeeper Oswaldo Sanchez. None of the 2001 Ticos are back.

Costa Rica finished on top of its semifinal group with six straight wins while scoring 20 goals scored and conceding just three. It opened the Hexagonal with a 2-0 win over Honduras and sits atop the Hexagonal standings with the USA.

While the Swede Eriksson clings to his job -- a contract that requires a significant payment were he fired is reportedly what has kept the Federation from making a change -- he's most recently come under fire for dropping playmaker Antonio Naelson, who has been in excellent form for Mexican champion Toluca.

"Toluca is playing very well ...but for us, I mean the national team, we are going to use a system which is different to Toluca's," Erikson said at a Tuesday press conference. "The players I have picked are the right ones for the job we want to do against Costa Rica and Honduras."

Mexico plays at Honduras on Wednesday.


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