It’s a sad day for Mexican soccer fans in the Mission (including this reporter). For the first time since 1978, Mexico will not advance out of the group stage in the World Cup.
Though Mexico won its match against Saudi Arabia, 2-1, winning was not enough. Salem Al-Dawsari’s goal for the Saudis in the 95th minute — five minutes into stoppage time — doomed the Mexican side.
Poland advanced over Mexico because of its superior goal differential: In three matches, the Poles scored the exact number of goals as their opposition, while the Mexicans scored one fewer goal than their opponents. Sadly, if the Mexicans and Poles had been even in goal differential, the Poles would still have advanced: They had fewer yellow cards.
The atmosphere at Mission and 24th streets at lunchtime reflected the weight of the match. Taqueria El Rey, El Farolito, and the Napper Tandy’s were filled to the brim with a sea of overwhelmingly green jerseys turning heads, between the Mexico vs. Saudi Arabia and Argentina vs. Poland matches. Rarely have so many Mexicans been observed cheering for Argentina.
Several soccer stores along Mission Street were streaming the matches live. Elite Sports on Mission Street carries gear from countries across the globe, with an especially robust collection of Mexico paraphernalia, including jackets, accessories, soccer balls and cleats.
Just after halftime, Salvador at Elite Sports was excited about Mexico’s play, thus far. “It’s always a point of pride to be Mexican. I’m always proud when Mexico wins. Plus, it’s good for business.”
Up on 24th Street, green-jersey-clad fans huddled around sidewalk TV screens to accommodate the overflow of fans.
When the Saudis broke through in stoppage time, the reaction from the crowd at Napper Tandy’s was visceral. It wasn’t possible to tell whether the Telemundo commentators were shouting “GOOOOOL” or “NOOOO.” Could be both.
It was a disappointing, if not shocking, end to a difficult year of Mexican soccer. The team this year has been plagued with controversy; their new (and now ex-) Argentine coach and self-described “public enemy No. 1” Gerardo “Tata” Martino selected a team lineup that excluded some of Mexico’s most prominent soccer players, including Santi Giménez and Javier Hernandez, more commonly known as “Chicharito.”
It was a disappointing result, and dejected Mission residents felt just a bit colder on a nippy November afternoon. They shook their heads as their lunch breaks came to a close and the World Cup continued without Mexico.