The biggest rival for Mexico is the subject of the next edition of Al Grito de Guerra, as Episode 3 takes on the Mexico vs. United States rivalry. The history of the rivalry and the recent turnaround where a one-sided rivalry has become totally even is the focus of the recent chapter, a less positive view than past editions of the documentary.
Here is the review:
The base of the biggest rivalry starts with the fact that Mexico and the United States share a confederation. It’s a great example of how it adds to the rivalry, as Mexico flat out believes itself superior to the zone except for the US (and even to them years ago). After a 1934 World Cup qualifier where the United States defeated Mexico and booked their ticket to the WC, Mexico dominated up until the 1990 World Cup where the US qualified to the WC while Mexico were suspended, although people forget Mexico would have faced the other CONCACAF Qualifier in Costa Rica in Qualification, not the US. After winning the ticket, the first big match after the 1990 World Cup was the one that started the new rivalry, when the US defeated Mexico in the 1991 Gold Cup semifinal 2-0 (ironically it was a 2-0 victory, the perpetual score in Columbus). Mexico would then have their revenge in the Azteca when they destroyed the US in the 1993 Gold Cup final by a 4-0 score.
If the 1991 Gold Cup was what changed the Mexico-US rivalry, the 1994 World Cup was responsible for changing the landscape of soccer in the United States. The documentary fails to mention a 1-0 loss by Mexico against the United States before the competition, but it does mention the year where they finally got over Mexico for the first time (1995). That year, the US crushed Mexico 4-0 in the US Cup and then eliminated them in a PK shootout in the 1995 Copa America. That competition had been awful for Mexico before, which the documentary partly touches on, ultimately ending Miguel Mejia Baron’s tenure with the Mexican NT.
In a surprising move, the documentary moves to the Columbus World Cup qualifiers with the first match in 2002, skipping past the 0-0 tie in Azteca in 1997 which was a huge part of why Coach Bora Milutinovic was fired after qualifying. Still, the topic of Columbus takes the opportunity to talk about Enrique Meza and his troubling tenure, the worst of a Mexican coach in recent history. The documentary talks about one of the worst moments in Mexico’s history, the Aztecazo, when Mexico lost 2-1 to Costa Rica. It was the first loss in Estadio Azteca in a World Cup qualifier. Meza left after losing to Honduras, and Javier Aguirre got the job where he made his debut in a World Cup Qualifier against the US. Mexico got a 1-0 win that got them back on track before the 2001 Copa America, where they got to the final for the second (and last) time in their history. Mexico then qualified to the 2002 World Cup.
The 2002 World Cup finally gets talked about in this edition, where Mexico got a good victory against a Croatia team that was coming off a third place finish in 1998. Then, the Ecuador match where Mexico echoed another solid performance against the World Cup debutantes. The third match against Italy brings the most tidbits including one from Javier Aguirre saying that Italy’s coach Giovanni Trappatoni and Francesco Totti were making fun of Mexico, something that bothered him and will bother many who hear it. The match and the great goal are mentioned, but the most surprising was the story that after Italy got a late goal, it was Trappatoni who told Mexicans to stop attacking after he had earlier laughed (the final minutes of the match had both teams kicking the ball around but at least up to now, I didn’t know that story).
Of course the World Cup led to the worst defeat in the history of Mexican football, when Mexico lost to the US in the Round of 16. The interviews are over. Some players like Oscar Perez and Jared Borgetti talked about the pressure before the match while Braulio Luna talked about being overconfident. The infamous substitution of Luis Hernandez and Ramon Morales is talked about (although Luis Garcia makes a mistake in saying Luis hadn’t played in that World Cup, which he had and played poorly). The PK that wasn’t called, Donovan’s 2nd goal and the red card to Rafael Marquez (which Luna is wrong about; it was late in the match and the score was settled when it happened), and the culmination of the worst match in Mexico’s World Cup history. The repercussions are discussed (for me it ruined that World Cup) and how that loss is the most important result for the United States and the rivalry.
The ever changing rivalry in recent years is the last focus of the doc with the 2009 Gold Cup 5-0 crushing victory by Mexico in the final and the 2011 Gold Cup final having Mexico swinging back the pendulum, including what could be the best Mexican goal in recent history with Giovani Dos Santos scoring the final goal in that match. A special note is made on the 2016 victory in Columbus that ended a big streak of wins in qualifiers and how it also came off the head off Rafael Marquez. The doc ends on a somewhat somber note as the Mexican players talk about still having some resentment about that 2002 loss and how going to the World Cup and facing the US again is a must for Mexico, although I think the doc could have shown how the passing of time eases these situations sometimes, or otherwise you become El Salvador fans talking about leaving Mexico out of the World Cup all the way back in 1981, when I was a week away from my 1st birthday. In the end, it was a better closing than concentrating on the 2021 Tata Martino constant failure against the US.
End Spoiler Alert
The third episode of Al Grito de Guerra is a bittersweet look about how the United States have turned things around from being a whipping boy for decades to at times the top dog in CONCACAF. It was a well done episode, although it concentrated a lot on the 2002 World Cup match and less in others, wasting a good opportunity to dig more into the 2016 match and how much it turned things around in terms of the constant Columbus banter. That being said, the content is great and that’s constantly done in the series. The number of stories from the matches as well as the voices shown from the other side were excellent, although the episode might be overshadowed as Amazon Prime will be releasing a documentary series this month called “Good Rivals” which will also be about the United States and Mexico rivalry. However, I predict it will be more pro United States.