Michelle Kaufman: Much ado about Mexican soccer

One soccer highlight video generated quite a buzz last week on the Internet, and it was not what was on the screen that had people talking and tweeting and re-tweeting links all over the world.

It was audio of the rant by TV Azteca announcer Christian Martinoli, ripping into the Mexican national team as the U.S. team scored two stoppage-time goals against Panama to keep Mexico’s World Cup dreams alive.

The Mexican network was showing a split screen with Mexico losing 2-1 to Costa Rica at the same time that U.S. players Graham Zusi and Aron Johannsson squashed the Panamanians’ World Cup chances with two goals that sealed a 3-2 win for the Americans.

Had the U.S. team lost, Mexico would have been eliminated for the first time since 1990 and Panama would be heading to a playoff against New Zealand next month.

As Zusi’s shot hit the back of the net to tie the score, Martinoli screamed in English into the microphone: “We love you! We love you forever and ever! God Bless America!”

And he was just getting started. By the time Johannsson scored, he was in full diatribe. (If you haven’t heard it, do yourself a favor and find it.) Here’s what he had to say:

“It is because of the USA that we are being placed in the playoff … because of THEM, not due to you! NOT ANY OF YOU in the green shirts. IT WAS THEM! NOT YOU! THEY DID IT!! NOT YOU! Remember this forever! KEEP THIS CLEARLY IN MIND FOR THE REST OF YOUR LIVES! You do NOTHING for the shirt, you do NOT put any effort for the team, you have NOT placed us in the playoffs. You have NOT placed us in the WORLD CUP! You would NOT have kept us alive!


“IT IS A FAILURE AND UNDESERVED (to go through to the playoff). We had no arguments to earn the playoffs. THE USA, WITH SUBS, WITH MANY SUBS as the visiting team shows us once again what the USA is all about … how to play the game with dignity, how to approach the sport. Mexico is a horror, just terrible, a FAILURE!

“THE USA HAS SURPASSED US! They are better than Mexico in SOCCER! THEY EVEN HAVE THE LUXURY OF PLAYING THEIR SUBS AND KEEPING US ALIVE! I hope our coach wears the pants and resigns. He has failed!”

Martinoli got his wish.

Victor Manuel Vucetich stepped down as coach Friday and was replaced by Club America coach Miguel Herrera. Herrera is Mexico’s fourth coach in three months. He will lead “El Tri” against New Zealand on Nov. 13 and Nov. 19 in an inter-regional World Cup playoff.

“I have achieved the unconditional support from all the club owners to back Miguel Herrera so that he gets us qualified,” federation president Justino Compean said Friday. “I am grateful to Club America for loaning us their entire technical staff for this important test. We have 180 minutes left.”

Jose Manuel “Chepo” de la Torre began the qualification rounds, but the team struggled and was in fourth place with only three games left. After the national team lost its first home qualifier since 2001 (a 2-1 loss to Honduras), Chepo was let go.

Interim coach Luis Fernando lasted one game — a 2-0 loss to the United States. Vucetich was brought on board, but after two losses, he’s out.

El Tri has qualified for five consecutive World Cups. The last time they missed out was 1990, when the team was banned for using ineligible players in a junior tournament. As Compean said, they have 180 minutes to redeem themselves.

After Tuesday’s games, U.S. Soccer posted on Twitter: “#You’re Welcome Mexico.”


Euro playoffs:

Nine European teams already have qualified for the 2014 World Cup — Belgium, Bosnia-Herzegovina, England, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Russia, Spain and Switzerland. Another four will come from a playoff among the eight-best runner-up teams through qualifying rounds.

The four highest-positioned teams (Portugal, Greece, Croatia, Ukraine) will be placed in one pot. The other pot will include France, Sweden, Romania and Iceland. The draw is Monday.

Other teams that have booked their spots for the Brazil World Cup are: Argentina, Australia, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Honduras, Iran, Japan, Korea Republic, the United States and host Brazil.


Brazil vs. Honduras:

Tickets are selling fast for the Nov. 16 match between Brazil and Honduras at Sun Life Stadium. Both $35 and $45 tickets already have sold out for the 7 p.m. game.

“Tickets are pacing faster than any previous soccer match at Sun Life Stadium, including Barcelona, Spain vs. Haiti, and the International Champions Cup,” said Todd Boyan, senior vice president of Sun Life Stadium operations. “It is clear that people are not waiting until the last minute to get their tickets for this match.”

The matchup between Brazil and Honduras at Sun Life Stadium will feature the best players from each country, among them Neymar, Oscar, Hulk, David Luiz, Marcelo and Dani Alves for the Brazilians and Carlo Costly, Maynor Figueroa, Roger Espinoza, Noel Valladares, Wilson Palacios and Victor Bernardez for the Catrachos.

The $35 seats were gone in 17 minutes, and the $45 seats sold out Wednesday morning after Honduras qualified for the World Cup. Tickets are available through or by calling the stadium box office at (305) 943-6311.