Photo: Petr David Josek/AP Photo
1. The Fans.
Mexicans are nuts about fútbol. Sure, so are the Dutch. But there are over 30,000 Mexicans in Brazil to watch the cup and their elaborate chanting and costuming (various iterations of sombrero-shaded, lucha-libre-masked, donkey-riding Aztec warrior eagles in green, white and red), plus the street-filling fervor seen back in the patria, seem to have lit a fire in a team that was rather torpid in the qualifying rounds. In the last two weeks, and in the last three games, El Tri and their fans have fallen back in love.
2. The Wall.
The best goalkeeping performance this Cup so far was staged by the much-memed Memo Ochoa. Mexico (many thanks to Memo) has so far allowed only one ball into their net. And that is after facing off against the highest scorer of the tournament, Neymar, and the rest of the trigger-footed Brazilian squad. The Dutch may out-shoot Mexico, but can they score?
This boyish glory, nicknamed “the little pea” substitutes in like a shot of adrenaline-laced tequila in the second half of most games. After a number of Mexico misses against Croatia, Chicharito skipped onto the field and El Tri scored three in the next twenty minutes, including a holy-looking header from the little pea himself.
Despite Holland looking like one of the best teams in the tournament so far, El Tri have fought hard in the past against the Dutch. The only time the two teams have met at a World Cup, in 1998, Mexico came from two goals behind to squeak out a draw. Check out the Remezcla video of the stunning come from behind tie from the perspective of the day’s hero, El Matador.
5. Again, the Fans.
Mexicans aren’t known to shy away from insults. Nor are their fans. And their notorious wiggly-fingers “Eeeeeh ¡Puto!” chant seems to be actually working this year, if not putting a hex on opposing players, then at least making a lot of noise both on and off the pitch. Though FIFA officials investigated whether or not to fine the Federación Mexicana de Futbol for the homophobic slant to the chant, they’ve made no charges. In Brazil, we should remember, there were 313 anti-gay killings last year, and any slurs even slightly homophobic should be stopped. Surely, slick-tongued Mexican fans could come up with something else to scream. Nonetheless, in cantinas and sports bars across the continents, and in Fortaleza, Brazil next Sunday, tens of thousands of Mexican diehards will be twiddling their fingers, crescendoing into a roar, and then screaming “¡Puto!” at the Dutch defense.
6. El Piojo.
Lovingly nicknamed “the lice” Miguel Herrera is the most expressive and least inhibited coach of this year’s World Cup. His ecstatics have included body-slamming one of his own players after a goal against Croatia and fist-pumping in rapture after the goal against Cameroon. But besides his thrashing celebrations, as well as photobombing his own players, he’s brought a recently struggling team together and gotten results, tying the heavily favored home team Brazil in points in Group A.
Warning to Mexican Fans: If your team does pull off a win next Sunday, though the temptation will be strong, please don’t strip naked and wrap yourself in the Mexican flag. You could get fined.