Jan
21
2008
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Mexico Debut In Style

The group phase had produced some remarkable results, with the two African representatives, Senegal and Nigeria, running away with their groups (C and D respectively) after three impressive victories which made them very popular among the fans. Both teams seemed tired in their quarter-finals, in which the Senegalese were outclassed by the more experienced French side and the Nigerians were unable to overcome the well-organised Uruguayans, but they showed that they will be a force to be reckoned with in the near future.
Nevertheless, the biggest surprise came from the debutant Mexican team, inspired by coach Ramon Raya. With just four of months of preparation and with a team that only retained captain Ricardo Villalobos from the previous season, the Aztecas gained confidence from their penalty shoot-out win over Russia in the opening match before shocking powerhouse Spain in the quarter-finals and last years’ runners up Uruguay in the semi-finals on their way to the final. The team could not quite hold the Brazilians in the last game, but showed that they will be strong contenders for the title soon.
On the opposite side of the coin, the European sides were once again the disappointment of the championship. Italy and Russia were knocked out in the group phase and Portugal and Spain were ousted in the quarter-finals, while Cantona’s Blew did not perform at their usual level and finished in lacklustre fourth place after losing their last two matches.