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A look back at the Azteca farewell game tradition

Mexico will play Scotland on Sunday to continue the tradition of farewell games at the Estadio Azteca before the World Cup

Mexico’s 2014 farewell game against Israel
Rafael Hernandez

On Saturday, Mexico will play their farewell game at the Estadio Azteca against Scotland. Even with the high ticket prices and the criticism the team has received from the press, the federation recently announced a sold out crowd. The Azteca farewell game tradition has been a constant one ever since the Mexican team returned to the World Cup in 1994, after being expelled in the 1990 edition.

IRELAND V MEXICO

1994 World Cup- Mexico vs Ajax (2-1)

Mexico went to the World Cup in 1994 after missing out in 1990. El Tri decided to play against club side Ajax in an Azteca farewell match before going to the United States. The year before, club side Atletico Madrid came to Azteca in an infamous match. Mexico’s Luis Garcia played for Atletico and scored 2 goals as Atletico Madrid defeated Mexico 3-2. That tidbit was weird enough, but the match was famous because defender Juan de Dios Ramirez Perales and Roman Kosecki got into it and started a massive brawl after Ramirez came in hard for a challenge. The game against Ajax was a bit less thrilling, but Mexico went out with a 2-1 victory. Juan Carlos Chavez opened the scoring before Steffan Petterson tied it with a penalty. In the second half, Carlos Hermosillo scored to give Mexico the 2-1 win.

Mexico teamgroup

1998 World Cup- Mexico vs Paraguay (1-1)

For thee 1998 World Cup, Mexico decided to play Paraguay. Unlike the rest of the farewells, this game was played earlier in March. Coach Manuel Lapuente decided to do a camp in European territory so the game had to be done earlier in the year. They were facing a Paraguayan team that was coming back to the World Cup for the first time since 1986. Coincidentally, that World Cup was in Mexico, where they also played El Tri at the Azteca. That game ended tied 1-1, with Hugo Sanchez missing a penalty. For this game, Hugo Sanchez was once again the man of the hour as the federation chose to honor him during the match. Sanchez had retired the year and this was his farewell game, with him starting and later getting subbed out to cheers from the home crowd. The game, though, was a tough one for Mexico, and Paraguay gave them lots of trouble, eventually taking a 1-0 lead through Miguel Angel Benitez. Francisco Gabriel de Anda was able to head in a ball to tie the game, but like 1986, it finished with a 1-1 draw and with the Mexico fans severely disappointing.

Interestingly enough, Paraguay and Hugo Sanchez would have another interaction. In 2007, while Sanchez was head coach, Mexico had an Azteca farewell match before the Gold Cup and Copa America of that year. Paraguay went on and defeated Mexico 1-0, giving Mexico their first defeat in Mexico City since the Costa Rica Aztecazo and giving Hugo grief for the third time. Hugo would finally get his revenge in the Copa America when Mexico crushed Paraguay 6-0 in the Quarterfinals.

Jared Borgetti of Mexico scores the first goal Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

2002 World Cup- Mexico vs Colombia (2-1)

After Javier Aguirre “saved” the Mexican National team from the horrible Meza era, Mexico was set to go to the World Cup and they faced Colombia. Colombia had failed to qualify to the World Cup and didn’t send their A-squad but they were still a tough opponent for Mexico. Mexico took the lead with a Jared Borgetti goal. Oscar Restrepo pulled a goal back for Colombia against the run of play, but Rafael Marquez headed in a goal to give Mexico the 2-1 win. Mexico thus got the home win in a game that surprisingly enough has few available replays on the internet, even if it was between two popular national teams.

Group D Mexico v Iran - World Cup 2006 Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

2006 World Cup- Mexico vs Democratic Republic of Congo (2-1)

Mexico went to the 2006 under Ricardo Lavolpe as a seeded team and with an easier group than most. They chose for their farewell match against the Democratic Republic of Congo, looking it as a tuneup for their World Cup rival Angola. Mexico started out with a totally dominating performance in the first half. Francisco “Kikin” Fonseca would score twice to stamp a convincing lead against their African rivals. The second half though came with a big mistake from Carlos Salcido (which unfortunately would be a future sign of things to come with Salcido 7 years later under coach Jose Manuel “Chepo” de la Torre) and Dieumerci Mbokani went through and scored the 2-1. Mexico still played better and Andres Guardado would miss a sitter, and the 2-1 result was too little a price for how Mexico played that day.

France v Mexico: Group A - 2010 FIFA World Cup Photo by Christof Koepsel/Getty Images

2010 World Cup - Mexico vs Chile (1-0)

Javier Aguirre’s second tenure with the Mexican National team had a larger than usual camp. The difference being that this time there was a larger amount of European based players, which meant that a lot of them arrived to the team later on. A similar situation happened with Chile, who like Paraguay in 98 were returning to the World Cup after a long absence. That said, both teams came ready to play with the players they had available. Alberto Medina made a great play to open the scoring early. Mexico then had a couple of opportunities but so did Chile. The game then changed completely when Manuel Iturra came on for Chile and minutes later made an awful tackle on Andres Guardado. Guardado was substituted out but luckily was alright, although Iturra’s play probably one of the reason’s he did not not make the cut for Chile’s World Cup squad. Javier Hernandez missed a great goal but the biggest miss was one for Adolfo “Bofo” Bautista. Bofo was booed loudly by the crowd when he came on, with many fans feeling he wasn’t good enough for the World Cup. His horrible miss made things worse and a lot of fans felt proven right when Bofo would go to the World Cup and play a terrible game against Argentina. Many fans remember the World Cup stat that had goalkeeper Oscar Perez having a bigger mileage than him during the game.

Croatia v Mexico: Group A - 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Photo by Miguel Tovar/Getty Images

2014 World Cup- Mexico vs Israel (3-0)

Mexico started their last World Cup round of friendly games with the farewell game against Israel. Like 1998 with Hugo Sanchez, the Mexican federation decided to honor a player, Mexican great Cuauhtemoc Blanco, with a farewell game. Unlike with Hugo, Blanco would play almost the whole first half and looked good doing so, at times was the best player on the pitch. But the man of the match turned out to be Israeli Goalkeeper Ariel Harush. Twice Miguel Layun scored, twice with horrible mistakes by Harush. In the first half, Harush made a play similar to Loris Karius’ mistake in the Champions League final this past Saturday on a long range shot, the difference being that Harush missed it completely. In the second half, another Layun long range shot and Harush failed to clear it well and it went in. In the final minutes, Marco Fabian would score for the 3-0. Although it was the biggest goal difference in favor of Mexico in all the Azteca farewells, the team got criticized for their lackluster play, which in reality wasn’t warranted. The game also had an impact because after a mistake, Francisco “Maza” Rodriguez crashed into goalkeeper Jose de Jesus Corona, who got a concussion. Guillermo Ochoa came on, and although Corona came back to the team and went to the World Cup in Brazil, he never regained the starting spot and Ochoa went on to shine in Brazil

On Saturday Mexico, will continue the pattern by breaking another streak and facing Scotland for the first time in their history in a Senior National team game.