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Mexico’s quinto partido curse isn’t particularly ‘cursey’

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Far be it from me to defend Mexico, but let’s talk about this fifth round “quinto partido” curse for a minute.

And it really shouldn’t take much longer.

[ RECAP: Brazil 2-0 Mexico ]

There’s obviously no denying that Mexico continues to lose in the Round of 16, and that 2002 was an absolute nightmare.

For them. Let’s be clear: It was pretty much the best day in American soccer history.

But if anything, look at the wonderful below graphic assembled by our beautiful NBC Sports Soccer crew.

Mexico has lost to better teams more times than not, and their only crime of this World Cup, one in which they beat Germany, is that they didn’t win the group and play Switzerland instead of Brazil.

[ MORE: Kovacic, Plea in PL transfer links ]

[ MORE: Real denies Neymar offer ]

But that Dos a Cero aside, look at the teams that knocked them out and the margins. Mexico scored in the majority of the contests. And they mostly lost to giants.

The curse scales runs from level 1 (no shame) to level 10 (Come on, Mexico).

1994: A team largely devoid of superstars came up against Hristo Stoichkov and Bulgaria. Both teams scored inside of 20 minutes, and Mexico blew it in penalties. Bulgaria, for what it’s worth, then took eventual finalists Roberto Baggio and Italy to the wire in a 2-1 quarterfinal lost. Curse level: 6

1998: This one feels a bit curselike, but only on account of how the match played out. A Luis Hernandez goal put El Tri ahead just after halftime. But Germany, led by Jurgen Klinsmann, scored in the 74th and 86h (Oliver Bierhoff) to win it. Those are a pair of German legends on a team with fellow legends Lothar Matthaus and Andreas Moller. Curse level: 2

2002: Dos A Cero. -clap-clap-clapclapclap- Dos A Cero. -clap-clap-clapclapclap- Curse level: 100

2006: Given a group with Iran, Angola, and Portugal, El Tri had four points before losing to favorites Portugal in the finale. That led to Argentina, who had emerged unscathed from a group with Serbia, the Netherlands, and the Ivory Coast. Rafa Marquez and Hernan Crespo traded goals inside of 10 minutes, and extra time saw a 19-year-old Lionel Messi touch the ball twice in the build-up to this outlandish 98th minute Maxi Rodriguez goal. Curse level: 1

2010: Hopes were high thanks to an upset of chaotic France, but Mexico again drew an Argentina side that went 3-0 despite the absence of a single Messi group stage goal. He didn’t score in the Round of 16 either, but losing to two goals from Carlos Tevez and a Gonzalo Higuain goal shows just how loaded the Argentine contingent was in South Africa. Curse level: 2

2014: El Tri was feeling great under Miguel Herrera, as Piojo oversaw wins over Croatia and Cameroon along with an impressive draw with hosts Brazil. Tiebreakers meant a meeting with eventual semifinalists Netherlands, and Giovani dos Santos scored to give Mexico a 48th minute lead. This one, however, carries a bit of curse for how it ended; Wesley Sneijder scored in the 88th minute before Klaas-Jan Huntelaar converted a penalty won… well… controversially by some clown Arjen Robben. #NoEraPenal. Curse level: 8

Which brings us to 2018: Is losing to a tournament favorite in any way considered a curse? No. Not at all. Is losing to the third-best player in the world while he dives around like the worst example of a soccer stereotype cursey enough to go past curse level zero? Sure, but you did step on the dude’s leg with an immense amount of cameras around. If Casemiro did the same to Javier Hernandez, the little pea would still be rolling on the ground as you read this. Curse level: 1

Sampaoli leaves his post as Argentina manager

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The 2018 World Cup body count has risen.

Argentina manager Jorge Sampaoli has been relieved of his duties after he oversaw their departure in the Round of 16 with a loss to France. According to multiple reports, first by Hernan Castillo of TNT Sports, the decision was made after Sampaoli met with Argentina FA chief Claudio Tapia on Sunday.

Sampaoli began as Argentina manager only last June with the team struggling in World Cup qualification. He saw them qualify in the final guaranteed CONMEBOL spot with three draws and a win in his four matches in charge, but the team was far from solid.

[ MORE: Sampaoli is this World Cup’s biggest group stage loser ]

The World Cup for Argentina was a disaster, and Sampaoli was at the heart of their failures. Lionel Messi was left on an island for nearly the entire tournament, and Sampaoli had no answers, chopping and changing the starting lineup hoping that something would stick. He took numerous tactical risks, and changed things significantly with each game.

The results spoke for themselves. After an opening round draw with Iceland where the Argentina attack was almost completely stifled, they were comprehensively walloped by Luka Modric and Croatia. With qualification on the line, they required a late winner from defender Marcos Rojo to save them from group stage elimination. Still, they were overwhelmed by France in the Round of 16, beaten 4-3 in a game where the scoreline flattered them somewhat.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ]

After the loss to France, Sampaoli admitted he wasn’t able to support Messi with the help he needed. “On a personal level it is a great frustration,” Sampaoli said. “We had the best player in the world and we tried to put him in a position to score. We tried to surround him with the right players to take advantage of that talent, it is a talent that no other team has.”

While Sampaoli will still be a highly coveted manager thanks to his success with Chile, his most recent stops at Sevilla and with Argentina will give some prospective employers reason to consider other options.

Sampaoli is the second manager to depart his post after defeat in the 2018 World Cup, following Egypt boss Hector Cuper.

Video: Mercado deflection puts Argentina in front

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Argentina has gone in front against France, 2-1, after Gabriel Mercado’s deflected shot beat Hugo Lloris.

The Albiceleste took the lead three minutes into the second stanza following a free kick, with Lionel Messi’s shot from inside the box finding Mercado, who guided the ball into the near post.

WATCH: World Cup, Day 16 — France-Argentina kicks off Round of 16

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16 countries have paved their way into the knockout phase at the 2018 World Cup, but now it’s every team for itself as Saturday kicks off the Round of 16.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ]

A pair of high-profile clashes resumes the tournament, with giants France and Argentina kicking off the action, before Uruguay and Portugal meet later in the day.

Les Bleus enter the weekend having gone unbeaten in their three Group C matches, however, with just three goals scored to this point, France will be looking for Kylian Mbappe, Antoine Griezmann and the rest of the attack to provide a spark up front.

Meanwhile, Argentina scraped its way through to the knockout rounds after a gutsy effort against Nigeria in their Group D finale.

The Albiceleste have managed to reach at least the quarterfinals in their last three World Cup appearances, and have achieved that feat in all but one tournament since 1986 (Round of 16 in 1994).

Click here for live and on demand coverage of the World Cup online and via the NBC Sports App.

In the day’s other matchup, Uruguay boasts the best backline in the competition, after not conceding any goals through group play.

Cristiano Ronaldo and Co. travel to Sochi in search of becoming the first nation to break down the Uruguayan defense at the World Cup.


2018 World Cup schedule – Saturday, June 30

Round of 16

France vs. Argentina; Kazan — 10 a.m. ET — LIVE COVERAGE
Uruguay vs. Portugal; Sochi — 2 p.m. ET — LIVE COVERAGE

Layla’s Occasionally Unbiased Football Show: Episode 6

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Layla Anna-Lee has a new show and, well, it’s unbiased. At least occasionally…

In the sixth episode of Layla’s Occasionally Unbiased Football Show, Layla looks at Lionel Messi’s new role, Germany’s embarrassing exit, how England’s plan worked perfectly, and much more.

[ MORE: 2018 World Cup Best XI (so far)]

There will be plenty more to come over the next two weeks, with the show coming via the Men In Blazers.

Click play on the video above to watch the sixth episode in full.