Mexico – South Africa

Okay, I’m lazy so I’m gonna write the post in English first (as most spanish speakers I think would stop by here are fluent enough), and then work on a translation if I’m not tired or bored or watching football.

Long story short: if you can watch a World Cup game in 3-D, and it’s not more money than you’d spend going out for the length of a soccer game, do so. It is awesome.

So now, my overall impressions on the inaugural game:

Mexico got what it deserved, it fielded a ridiculously defensive XI that while nominally a relatively offensive 4-3-3 it was only 3 actual offensive players in the pitch (1 GK, 6 Def, 1 Def Mid, 3 FWs). There was not one single creative midfielder in the pitch when the game started. What. The. Fuck.

Also, the leaky defense. What’s the point of having 6 defenders in your team if you’re going to make every free kick/corner kick/counter attack from the other team, a scoring chance? Quantity over Quality, I suppose. The “we’re the 2nd shortest team” excuse is pure bullshit: they don’t head the ball because their heads are above mexicans’, but because they are left unmarked. Also, Osorio was entirely absent from the game. It shows he played about 15 minutes last season at Stuttgart. On every long ball that “Maza” Rodriguez would chase down, he was nowhere to be seen. He’s slow. He never seemed to be anywhere useful (like chasing down a galloping southafrican). I hope Hector Moreno replaces him against France, I really do.

Offensively, Guille was (sadly) used more to run down defenders and spearhead the team’s pressing efforts. Overall, they just weren’t fed enough balls, which of course is hard to when your midfield is one defensive midfielder (Torrado), a center back (Marquez), and a full back (Juarez). Giovanni did stand out; he created the most opportunities, worried the south africans the most, and had two close shots. Guille had a couple near goals. Of course, he should’ve scored, but I wouldn’t call them huge misses.

The midfield didn’t really exist. Ball possession and movement was dictated by the back four, Juarez didn’t last a hundredth of a second after receiving the ball before he turned back. Rafa Marquez did give the offense a bit of vision with his trough passes, but the team’s passing rhythm shouldn’t have stood on his shoulders. I’ve never been impressed with Torrado, he always get carded unnecessarily, lacks passing finesse and isn’t terribly impressive hounding the opponent’s midfielders.

And as for the keeper, where to start. 99.999% of the country (basically everybody but Aguirre and Perez) was shocked he was called initially. And this is when everybody assumed he was just going to share his experience with the younger (and more importantly, better) goalkeepers. I find it indefensible that he was in the pitch today. While he didn’t make a huge mistake (like, failing to control an easy shot that finds its way past the goal line and such), I think his performance was bad. On top of it, I doubt the team feels secure with him, he seems nervous on every damn ball he touches. While I wouldn’t say the goal was his fault, I think a better goalkeeper would’ve taken a couple more steps ahead which could’ve given him a chance to deflect the ball. At that speed he wasn’t going to lob the ball, anyways. And on pretty much every corner and cross ball, he seemed insecure going for the ball. He did entirely, and horribly miss the ball on a corner -even jumping for it and missing it by about a meter.- He failed to handle easy balls, giving at least a couple corners, and a couple hard balls for the defense to clear. I think he’s going to end up costing Mexico points.

I think “Vasco” Aguirre was too worried of receiving a goal on the first half, so he sent an overly defensive team. I cannot think of another reason to have precisely zero offensive-minded midfielders. Yeah, I know Efrain Juarez is good going forward, but he’s not a naturally offensive player, he lacks the instinct. He doesn’t shoot when there’s an opening (compare to Giovanni), for example. I get it that he wants to build the team from the back, but wouldn’t you rather focus on having your back 4 not give that many chances rather than just field more defensive players?

Now, player “ratings”:

  • Oscar “Conejo” Perez: Terrible. Insecure. Gave away too many easy balls. Not at all the image of an “experienced, secure goalkeeper” he’s supposed to be. At least, that’s the only reason that relatively makes sense when thinking about why Memo Ochoa is not playing. I doubt another goalkeeper will be fielded till the next World Cup, but I truly hoped that was the case. I have no confidence in him.
  • Paul Aguilar: So-so. Had a couple good runs down the line. Not terribly required defensively. I didn’t mind him, but I think he’s nowhere near being essential to the well-functioning of the team.
  • Ricardo Osorio: Terrible. Slow. Out of pace. Another “experienced veteran” who’s not justifying Aguirre’s faith in him. I hope (and I think this one has somewhat better chances than with Conejo) he is replaced by Moreno. Real soon.
  • Francisco “Maza” Rodriguez: He had a decent game, I think. He could’ve done a bit more on the goal and on that last play that ended with the goal post saving Mexico, but I think it was a very thin line to giving away a penalty kick (playing against the host nation, opening game). I’m happy with how he played.
  • Carlos Salcido: I expected a lot more from him. I didn’t see him running down the line like he usually does (maybe due to South Africa also playing overly defensive and stacking the midfield). Not a bad game, but I wouldn’t say he shined.
  • Rafa Marquez: Good game. He ended up playing as third center back half the time (because Mexico wasn’t playing a defensive enough scheme, of course). He provided needed experience, and his trademark through balls helped change the rhythm of play. He was the one who protested calls, since captain Torrado somehow wasn’t notified that’s part of his duty. I have no clue why he was not the team captain. Aguirre really likes “his” players. I suppose all coaches do, but still. He was cold as the most seasoned striker on his goal. Exceptional finish there.
  • Gerardo Torrado: unsurprising dull game. He kicked a bunch of people, he ran around, he missed half his passes forward. He earned his customary yellow. I didn’t see him talk much to the team (he was the captain), giving instructions, etc. Not precisely bad on defense, but contributed about zero offensively. He’s probably Aguirre’s favorite man because he “plays hard” or something. I’ve never been a fan of his.
  • Efrain Juarez: Bad game. He’s one of those full backs that contribute enough offensively that coaches start playing them ahead of their natural position. I think he should be the right back, and leave his midfield spot to an actual midfielder (preferably an offensive one). For the first time, he seemed like a rookie. His yellow card was incredibly stupid (who kicks the ball so the other team can’t hit a free kick a meter away from the ref? Repeatedly!?). He was way too meek offensively. I do expect him to improve, but I think he had his worst game with the National Team.
  • Carlos Vela: So-so. He had a couple good plays, but wasn’t nearly as active with the ball as Giovanni. Maybe because Salcido plays so high up that he’s never getting any open spaces. His pass to Guille that was miraculously saved by the keeper was excellent.
  • Guille Franco: So-so (and it pains me to say so).  He had a couple headers and that shot that the keeper barely touched. I’d say only one of the two headers was a clear chance, but still. I think 5 years ago, he would’ve come out with two goals.
  • Giovanni dos Santos: Man of the match. Without giving his best performance. Particularly in the second half, he suffered from just not being fed enough balls by the midfield. He was the one that kept the Southafrican defense on their toes. He was the only one that seemed to know that it is allowed to outrun a defender, maybe even dribble past them! I expect him to play better and better in the coming games.

Now, the subs:

  • Andres Guardado: Didn’t seem to be mentally in the match. He did have that excellent assist to Rafa, though. Never got a chance to run down the pitch like he does. I was hoping he’d be a second Giovanni, on the left. I hope he starts the next game. Mexico needs an offensive midfielder like him from the start.
  • Cuauhtemoc Blanco: Inconsequential. He kept the ball a bit, he passed the ball. He tried to change the team’s passing rhythm. I wouldn’t say he had a bad game, nor a good one. I think it wasn’t the kind of game where he could have (nowdays, not 4-10 years ago) made a difference. He wasn’t gonna be given the 3-4 seconds he needs to control, turn around and flick the ball, to be effective.
  • Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez: Inconsequential. I’m glad el Vasco is not succumbing to pressure to field him in the starting lineup. He’s nowhere near experienced enough to bear the weight of being Mexico’s striker. I’m quietly afraid he’ll turn out to dissapoint (he had one amazing half short season, that is, about 10 matches, against the bottom half of the league”s teams; and that’s it). I hope he keeps seeing minutes in, to gain experience and hopefully score a goal.

Overall, I think Mexico has potential to play very competitively, but keeps failing to do so. Part due to (in my opinion) tactical mistakes or miscalculations, and part due to players’ mistakes. I hope they improve, but if anything, el Vasco is a terribly stubborn man. I doubt he’ll change much. I expect him to defend his “system” till the end and make few adjustments (different subs, probably). It’s too early to have a serious notion of how things will turn out, but right now I’d say I’m less hopeful than yesterday.

Now, as for 3-D. It was amazing. I don’t know how to explain it, except to say that if you went to see Avatar in 3-D, it looks that good and real. Special thanks go to the people at Cinepolis, for bringing 3-D World Cup matches to Monterrey (and other cities in Mexico), and Bancomer for giving away tickets to Credit Cardholders like moi. Sweet!

Just waiting for the game to start, looking at images from people at the Stadium had me in awe, but I was afraid the action would not look as good, maybe even a little headache-inducing. I was gladly mistaken, I didn’t feel motion sick in the slightest, and there was not even a hint of a headache. After a while, you kinda forget that what you’re watching has depth, and the realization seconds later only makes it sweeter.

So yeah, the purely watching experience was amazing and I highly recommend it, the part about watching a game played poorly by Mexico, not so much. Will I fork out $300 pesos (~$25 USD) to watch another match? I’m not sure: a)it’s a bit pricey, not only for me but for friends who’d potentially go with me; b)The ambient was nice, but I think watching it at home with friends is still better (for ambient’s sake); c)There’s only movie theater food, and at 9AM, I I want something more substantial. But this is taking into account that I already watched a game, which does change things.

Watching the final in 3-D, or one of those amazing quarter/semi-finals sounds very tempting indeed…

P.S. Swear to FSM, after I left the theater, I swear I could still see things in 3-D without the special glasses. Probably some brain-optical illusion, I know!

Update- I forgot, the commentators were kinda bad. The play-by-play wasn’t bad, but since about the 30th minute, the analysis guy started clamoring for Cuauh, aka (by him) “The Last Great Hero,” (El Ultimo Gran Heroe) which he proceeded not to fail to mention every single time he talked about him, which was too often to not be horribly annoyed. Pretty much everybody was scoffing at this. Inquiring minds wondered how it was possible for him to sound so clear with Cuauh’s balls in his mouth.

What. The. Fuck.

I don’t think many people would be surprised to read a news article dealing with sexual abuse in South Africa. Or AIDS. Etc, etc, etc. For better or worse, it’s kind of the usual reference for “horrible situation dealing with sex.” But a survey finding one in four South African men have raped someone?

I have no words.

Now, keep in mind life expectancy is pretty low, so I’m disinclined from the get-go to chalk it off as an “old pracitce on its way out.”

One in 20 men surveyed said they had raped a woman or girl in the last year.

Professor Rachel Jewkes of the MRC, who carried out the research, told the BBC’s World Today programme: “The absolute imperative is we have to change the underlying social attitudes that in a way have created a norm that coercing women into sex is on some level acceptable.

Oh man, I can’t wait for somebody to start cracking totally hilarious jokes about this horrible situation. I bet they will be awesome. Can’t wait for it to become obvious what rape really is, and stop the sadly still-widespread practice of acting like it really isn’t that big of a deal, come on. Way to ruin everything, liberal PC-Police! We also make fun of dudes getting raped, so it’s all fair!

Hopefully that 25% male population happens to be observant catholic. That way they’ll be fighting the real problem about AIDS by praying while raping without a condom, so they are safe from catching anything (because you know, the victims don’t count as people, so no need to worry about their emotional and physical damage).

I’m not sure I want to see a complementary survey on how many South African women have been raped.

Hot damn.