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Mexico’s history in the Confederations Cup

Mexico’s history in the Confederations Cup includes their most important title in 1999.

Mexico vs Saudi Arabia 1999 Confederations Cup, Estadio Azteca
via Rafael Hernandez

Mexico is returning to the Confederations Cup, in what may be the last edition of a tournament that is key in Mexican soccer history. In 1999, Mexico had their greatest achievement in senior level football when they won their only international title. While Mexico has won major titles at the youth level, including the 2012 Olympic Gold Medal, at the senior level this ranks at the top. As Mexico goes into this edition as the only past champion, we take a look back at past Confederations Cup.

Pre Confederations Cup (1995 King Fahd Cup)

Before the Confederations Cup was an official FIFA tournament, it was organized by Saudi Arabia and called the King Fahd Cup. The first edition was held in 1992 but Mexico didn't win the 1991 Gold Cup and missed the competition. In 1995, Mexico went to the tournament for the first time and was placed in Group A with hosts Saudi Arabia and Euro champions Denmark. The group winner would go to the final, while the second placed team would play in the third-place match. Mexico’s debut was against hosts Saudi Arabia, and with two goals by Luis Garcia, they won 2-0. Their next game was against Denmark, who also beat Saudi Arabia by a 2-0 scoreline. Mexico took the lead against he Danish with a goal by Luis Garcia but Denmark tied it late. Since they were tied in points and goals, they had to go to penalties. In penalties, Mexico did their usual (especially at that time) and lost 4-2 with Marcelino Bernal and Garcia missing theirs. Mexico went to the third-place game, where they tied 1-1 with Nigeria but historically broke their negative streak in the PK shootout as they converted them all and won 5-4 for a 3rd place finish (their only one so far in this tournament). Luis Garcia finished as the top scorer of the tournament.

1997 Confederations Cup

FIFA took charge of the King Fahd Tournament and established the Confederations Cup with Saudi Arabia being the host. Mexico was placed in the group with the host, Australia and Brazil. This was going to be an important tournament for Mexico, as they had just fired Bora Milutinovic, after qualifying them to the World Cup in first place, and Manuel Lapuente was going to debut as head coach in this tournament. His debut couldn't have been worse as they lost 3-1 to Australia. They bounced back and crushed Saudi Arabia at home 5-0. Francisco Palencia and Cuauhtemoc Blanco both scored twice and Braulio Luna scored the other (the best goal of the game). Still, because Brazil and Australia tied it meant Mexico needed a tie against a powerful, and eventual champion Brazil, to go through. They couldn't do it and fell 3-2 with goals by Blanco and Ramon Ramirez, a great free kick goal. Mexico was out in the first round.

1999 Confederations Cup

Luis Hernandez at Cuernavaca’s training round for the 1999 Confederations Cup
via Rafael Hernandez

The first Confederations Cup held outside Saudi Arabia was held in Mexico. Lapuente was back for a second time in the tournament held in Mexico City (Estadio Azteca) and Guadalajara (Estadio Jalisco). The tournament was expanded to the current eight-team size and Mexico was in Group A with Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Bolivia. Group B had Brazil, the United States and New Zealand. Mexico started gloriously with a crushing defeat of Saudi Arabia 5-1. Cuauhtemoc Blanco scored four goals and Jose Manuel Abundis scored the other one from long range to give Mexico a win in a totally dominating performance. Things went into crisis when they tied Egypt 2-2 in Azteca. Mexico got an early 2-0 lead behind a great goal by Pavel Pardo and a header by Abundis. In the second half, the team started to have troubles, especially because of the rain, and Egypt took advantage of a Campos mistake and a deflection of a free kick to tie 2-2, in a game that felt like a defeat to Mexico and the crowd made it known to them. After Saudi Arabia crushed Egypt 5-1, Mexico was suddenly a loss away from getting eliminated but they won 1-0 (goal by Francisco Palencia) against Bolivia in another struggling performance, that was enough to win them the group and stay at the Azteca.

The semifinal had Mexico facing their biggest rival, the United States. They had shocked most people when they defeated Germany 2-0 to claim the second spot in Group B. The game was a similar situation to most Mexico/USA clashes in Azteca, with Mexico dominating and the US stifling them with a great performance from goalkeeper Kasey Keller. The US improved a lot in the second half and Ernie Stewart had a great chance that Jorge Campos saved. In extra time, Miguel Zepeda sent a cross into Blanco, that he whiffed but luckily was able to recover to score the golden goal and get to the final. The final was against Brazil, the sensation of the tournament, led by the Ronaldinho Gaucho, who was the talk of that year's Copa America after his great goal against Venezuela. He had already scored six goals in the tournament and was well on his way to become the legend that he was. Still, Mexico rose to the occasion in what many people might consider one of the greatest games in Mexican history. After an intense start, Miguel Zepeda and Abundis both scored and Mexico had a 2-0 lead that was cut short by a Serginho penalty kick just before half time. Brazil then shocked with a Roni goal to tie it up, but a mistake by Brazil allowed Zepeda to be onside and to score the 3-2. Mexico took advantage of a free kick mistake to start a counter attack with German Villa and youngster Rafael Marquez that was culminated with a great play by Blanco for his sixth goal of the tournament. Brazil scored almost immediately with a goal by Ze Roberto but Mexico held on to win 4-3 in what is one of the greatest nights in Mexican football history, if not the greatest. Blanco also became the second Mexican to lead the competition in scoring, as he was tied Ronaldinho and Marzouk Al Otaibi with six goals.

2001 Confederations Cup

Mexico gave one of their worst performance ever in the 2001 Confederations Cup in South Korea. Right in the middle of Enrique Meza's tenure (the worst in NT history for many), Mexico debuted with a 2-0 loss to Australia. They improved in a 2-1 loss to hosts South Korea but even their goal by Victor Ruiz came off a mistake by the Korean keeper. They finished the tournament with a crushing 4-0 loss to France. The least said about this, the better.

2005 Confederations Cup

The other great performance by Mexico was done in the 2005 Confederations cup in Germany. Mexico was in a group with Japan, Brazil and Greece. Ricardo Lavolpe's team had a tough road. They started with a good victory over Japan 2-1 with goals by Sinha and Francisco Fonseca. Then they gave a great performance as they beat Brazil 1-0 with a goal by Jared Borgetti. Brazil, the eventual champion, had their best team and dominated parts of the game, but Mexico was able to outlast them and qualify to the next round. In the final game, they looked to be the better team in a 0-0 tie with Greece, to win the group.

In the semifinal, Mexico had a great performance against Argentina in a 1-1 tie. Mexico played and took the game to Argentina, looking a lot better than they did when they defeated them 1-0 in the 2004 Copa America. Still the game went to penalties, and although they converted five of them, Argentina converted six to win the game. In the third place match, they faced host Germany and again had a great performance in a 4-3 loss. After Germany took the lead, Fonseca was able to tie the game but Germany scored almost immediately. In the second half, Mexico kept improving, Germany went down a man and Borgetti was able to tie with a header. Germany took the lead again but once again Borgetti was able to tie with another header to send the game into extra time. In extra time, Ballack scored off a free kick to win the game 4-3. It was a great performance against the host country that many people remember, although they forget that Germany got a red card. Still, the overall tournament performance is still praised.

2013 Confederations Cup

Japan v Mexico: Group A - FIFA Confederations Cup Brazil 2013 Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

Like in 2001, the 2013 Confederations cup came in the middle of a bad tenure by a Mexican national team coach with Jose Manuel “Chepo” de la Torre arriving in the tournament from a terrible World Cup campaign that would eventually end in a intercontinental playoff. Mexico was placed in Group A with Italy, Brazil and Japan. Mexico opened their tournament with a 2-1 loss against Italy. They were totally dominated and their goal came off a Javier Hernandez penalty. Mexico then went on to lose to host Brazil 2-0 and were eliminated from the competition in another game where they improved but failed to make any impact in the game. In the consolation game, Mexico finally gave a good performance as they defeated Japan 2-1 behind two goals by Javier Hernandez.