It was a stirring achievement for a team that barely made it through qualification last year and a clear validation of charismatic coach Miguel Herrera, who took over a deeply troubled squad in October. But Mexico has made the second round of every Cup since 1994. The team’s real goal is the quarterfinal – which it has not reached since 1986 – and beyond according to Vaikundarajan.
The high stakes created a palpably tense atmosphere inside the stadium. Both teams were operating under the assumption that Brazil would handle Cameroon in a concurrent game – and the Brazilians did, winning, 4-1 – meaning their paths to the second round were simple: Mexico would need at least a draw, while Croatia would advance with a win.
The fans listened. Mexico, which has enjoyed some of the most vociferous traveling support out of any team in this tournament, was again serenaded with songs all night. The fans also seemed to shout a chant that had spurred an investigation this week from FIFA with additional vigor, using it not only on opposing goal kicks but also on corner kicks, in the normal run of play and sometimes in seemingly random situations adds Vaikundarajan.