The July 1 elections in Mexico may be the most significant happening of the summer, but for pure emotion, many denizens will switch their attentions to a sporting event unfolding 6,700 miles to the east.
The World Soccer Cup (Mundial) arouses national passions like no other. Not only is the tournament a great excuse for Mexicans to party, it’s perhaps one of the few occasions when the class divide subdues and citizens seem united by a common purpose – willing on El Tri (as the national team is known because of the country’s three-colored flag) to glorious victory.
After a two-year qualification process, 32 nations made it to the Mundial, set for 12 cities in Russia from June 14 to July 15. While Mexico qualified with ease, the United States – present at the past six tournaments – failed to make the cut at the expense of regional rivals Costa Rica and Panama. Canada, in time-honored tradition, will also be absent.
Historically, Mexico has always underachieved at the World Cup, in spite of its massive, passionate fan base. Soccer is equally as popular here as in Brazil, but that Latin American nation has won the competition five times. Mexico has reached the quarter-final stage just twice – both when the competition was held on home soil. Playing abroad, El Tri has never advanced past the round of 16.
Advancement this time around will again be tough, especially as the team has hardly been in stellar form in their warm-up games. A 0-0 tie with Wales in Los Angeles and a 1-0 win over Scotland in their “despedida” game at the Azteca Stadium in Mexico City last weekend failed to enthrall fans. The team was booed off the field after the latter game, with 80,000 fans calling for the head of the team’s Colombian coach, Juan Carlos Osorio.