Saturday, July 20, 2024

With one goal in three games, Mexico makes a ‘disastrous early exit’ from the Copa América

This year’s Copa América soccer tournament was held up as a golden opportunity for Mexico’s men’s national team to finally come alive after years of disappointing finishes on the national stage. Instead, head coach Jaime “Jimmy” Lozano’s squad scored only one goal in three games and was eliminated in the first round after it played to a 0-0 tie against Ecuador on Sunday night in the Phoenix, Arizona, suburb of Glendale.

ESPN called it “a disastrous early exit.”

The result in front of 62,565 fans — most of them draped in green, red and white and vigorously rooting for the three-colored team known as El Tri — brought back memories of Mexico also failing to advance past the first round of the 2022 World Cup in Qatar. There, the team also had a record of one win, one loss and one tie, and scored just two goals in more than 270 minutes of play.

“Since 2019, Mexico has gone from failure to failure,” wrote the newspaper El País.

The sports newspaper Diario AS said the team is “going through a crisis of results that calls its future into question.”

“The only thing they do is make themselves ridiculous,” TV Azteca commentator Christian Martinoli said on the air. “This is another resounding failure.”

The Ecuadorian goal keeper jumps to push a shot away from the net during a Copa América game, as Mexican fans watch with shocked expressions behind the goal.
Mexico’s offense fails to put one in Ecuador’s net in the game that cinched the Mexican team’s elimination. (Federación Ecuadoriana de Fútbol)

Mexico entered its final group-stage game on Sunday needing a victory to advance as Group B’s second-place team. The squad opened promisingly with a 1-0 win over Jamaica but then lost 1-0 to Venezuela.

After their tie, Mexico and Ecuador each had 1-1-1 records, but Ecuador advanced thanks to outscoring its opponents 4-3, while Mexico’s aggregate was 1-1.

Venezuela surprisingly won the group with three victories and advanced to the quarterfinals along with Argentina, Colombia and Uruguay (and three other teams, pending more first-round results on Monday and Tuesday).

Based on the world FIFA rankings coming into the tournament, Mexico (15th) was the heavy favorite in a group that also included Ecuador (30th), Jamaica (53rd) and Venezuela (54th). The next rankings on July 17 will probably see El Tri drop a few spots.

Although El Tri is one of only six countries that has qualified for every World Cup since 1994, the team has won only 10 of 24 games since Lozano took over as head coach last year.

His tenure started in July 2023 with Mexico winning the CONCACAF Gold Cup, a tournament for the region that covers North America, Central American and the Caribbean.

But since then, Mexico has five wins, six losses and four ties in 15 games, and a particular thorn in its side is a winless 0-4-2 record against the U.S. in tournament play since 2019.

Mexico's national mens soccer team coach Jaime Lozano.
The Mexican team’s weak performance has some fans doubting El Tri coach Jaime Lozano. (Cuartoscuro)

Copa América was a chance at redemption.

Held at NFL stadiums throughout the U.S. after Ecuador backed out as host country, the tournament for South American teams often offers guest invitations to other countries. This year, Mexico was one of six teams invited.

And now, they’ll be one of eight teams heading home after the first round.

In their last four Copa América appearances, Mexico has been eliminated three times without advancing.

Just one goal against either Venezuela and Ecuador would have been enough to advance into the quarterfinals, but despite an offensive barrage by Mexico and many chances in each game, El Tri was unable to convert.

While public opinion indicates Lozano is not up to the task of leading the team into the 2026 World Cup — which Mexico will co-host along with the U.S. and Canada — the Mexican Football Federation’s director of men’s national teams said otherwise.

Duilio Davino stated in a post-game press conference that Lozano will maintain his job.

“The project continues,” the FMF bigwig said. “In two weeks, Jimmy will present us with an evaluation of what happened in the summer … We’ll talk with him about everything we can improve … but there are also positives.”

With reports from La Jornada, El País, FoxSports.mx, Marca, Diario AS and ESPN

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