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A Look Back: USA Beats Mexico 2-0 In 2002 World Cup


On Wednesday, the United States and Mexico will face each other for the sixtieth time at the Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia. Though the match is a friendly, its future outcome will by no means be free of implications. For the Americans, a win would mean that they are still on par with their Mexican counterparts and that hiring former German national team coach (and soccer great) Jurgen Klinsmann was the correct thing to do*. For Mexico, a win would further maintain that high the team has been riding since their 4-2 Gold Cup victory.

In preparation for Wednesday’s match, we’ll be posting a video highlight from each team’s greatest win in recent history mostly to rile both fan bases up. Today, we’ll be taking a look at the USMNT 2-0 victory in the second round of the 2002 World Cup hosted in Korea/Japan.

Mexico was favored to win given the USMNT’s lackluster performance in the qualifying stage (they only advanced thanks to a last second goal by South Korea, which eliminated Portugal). Then, Brian McBride made it 1-0 (5:50 mark in video below) in the eighth minute. Nothing was lost yet, but defeat seemed like a real possibility:

Still, playing with their backs against the wall, El Tri attacked. And attacked. The ball just didn’t want to go in. Chalk it up to bad luck. Why else did the refere Vitor Melo Pereira miss the very blatant handball (8:40 mark), a call that would have likely given Mexico the tie and left the USA with ten players? It might be that our brain wasn’t functioning properly at such an ungodly hour– the live broadcast was on at around 3 Am– but we were as bewildered by the non-call as the Mexican announcers were in the video below:

Finally, in the 65th minute (2:55 time stamp), Landon Donovan headed in the final nail. There were still 25 minutes left to play– ample time to mount a 2-0 comeback– but, psychologically speaking, Mexico was done for. The United States would move on to lose to Germany in the quarterfinals, but that win would dictate the tone of the rivalry for most of the decade.

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