Hannover Sunday 19th June 2005 20:45
Goal: Borgetti (Mexico) 59
Against all expectations Mexico beat the highly-rated Brazil on Sunday night with a hard-fought performance.
Ah how the mighty fall. "There are no invincible teams in the world anymore", David, in the guise of Mexico coach Antonio La Volpe, said of the Brazilian Goliath post-match. Indeed not. This shock result has not only injected intrigue into a tournament that seemed all but sown up for the World Cup holders after their stellar display in their opening game but has also reminded fans worldwide of the joyously freakish nature of the Beautiful Game. We always forget it can be so unpredictable.
Jared Borgetti must have been exceptionally relieved to see his 59th minute header go in and no whistle blown after suffering the first-half agony of seeing his twice retaken penalty (encroachment) eventually saved by Dida.
Much was expected of Brazil after the 3-0 mauling they handed out to Greece in their first game and they did come close on a number of occasions but ran out of steam as the seconds ticked away.
Mexico for their part, though lacking matchwinners in the Adriano/Ronaldinho class, played to their strengths in keeping their shape and competing until the final whistle so fully deserved this memorable victory.
Brazil began pounding away at their CONCACAF cousins from the off, with their four young musketeers to the fore. When on form they are a joy to watch: Ronaldinho the picador, scuttling around the edge of the box and shimmying like a ferret that entrances its prey before sticking the knife in suddenly and lethally, Robinho the driver, spearheading his gang's onslaught towards the flag, Kaka the puppeteer swinging like a pendulum between midfield and attack and orchestrating the campaign from above and lastly Adriano the cannon, who explodes with devastating and often unexpectedly spectacular effect when his touchpaper is lit by a colleague.
In the first half hour three of the four (all but Robinho) took long-range pot shots at the Mexicans, for whom Ramon Morales' fifteen yard effort at Dida was their sole entry in the proceedings before a bizarre sequence of events around the half-hour mark.
Having been knocked down in the box by Roque Junior in the twenty-ninth minute, Borgetti dusted himself down, looked at the heavens and made the sign of the cross before running up to take the resulting penalty.
He netted but his celebrations were doused by Italian referee Roberto Rosetti's insistence as if FIFA had just issued another controversial diktat on the eve of a tournament as is their wont, that the kick be retaken because Morales had taken two steps inside the box. Borgetti repeated his build-up and slammed his second kick against the bar. This time Robinho was the encroaching villain of the piece and so Borgetti glanced skywards and blessed himself before shooting his third penalty. This time Dida dived sharply to his right and pushed the ball away for a corner.
The Brazilians are famed for thier technique but on thirty-five minutes it was Mexico's Ricardo Osorio who performed the nearest thing to an on-field scorpion kick which left Brazil's Ze Roberto grasping at space.
Adriano was causing havoc in the box with his power, speed and touch and twice came within inches of scoring in the last five minutes of the half. At the other end Morales released a twenty-five yard rocket caught by Dida and Mexico went in at the break proud to have not been overawed or blown away like Greece were in the opening forty-five.
The CONCACAF Gold Cup winners had their best spell in the first fifteen minutes of the second half with sustained possession in Brazil's half punctuated by two Brazilian counter-attacks and chances for Robinho and Ronaldinho. Lucio meanwhile had slid in to keep a Morales shot for the tricolores out at the other end.
The selecao found themselves next in unfamiliar territory as they went behind in the fifty-ninth minute. Borgetti stamped another of his trademark towering headers, this time past the stranded Dida at a corner kick, and the Aztecs were leading the Beach Boys.
Parreira brought on Renato and Oliveira to try to make amends and Adriano thumped a header into the net after sixty-eight minutes only for it to be flagged offside. Juninho was another arrival on the field as the World Cup holders began to constrict their opponents inexorably.
Mexico got a moment to breathe in the eighty-third minute as they broke downfield and Mario Mendez pinged his shot a yard wide of Dida's post but that aside it was sombreros against the wall but after goalkeeper Oswaldo Sanchez denied Lucio with a double save in the ninety-third minute you knew the deity Borgetti had entreated in the first half was wearing a green shirt.
Brazil coach Carlos Alberto Parreira conceded his team were more tired than the Mexicans and fell victim to a well-organised outfit: "There were three or four Mexicans around the ball every time and they were very reolute in defence", he told reporters, "that is why we ran into trouble."
God moves in mysterious ways all right.
The win now puts Mexico on 6 points into the semi-finals with Brazil and Japan on 3 and Greece on 0. This now sets up Wednesday's final group game between Japan and Brazil in Cologne as a winner-takes-all showpiece with Mexico able to breathe a little until the weekend's semi-finals.