Seventeen times, the United States had played against Mexico in Mexico City. Seventeen times, the United States had lost.
That’s why the Americans were ecstatic over Sunday’s scoreless tie in a World Cup qualifier, which gave them a much needed point in the tournament to qualify for the 1998 World Cup in France.
“We consider this a golden point,” said a beaming U.S. coach Steve Sampson. “It’s very important now that we maintain the discipline and unity that we displayed in this game.”
With the tie, the United States can move into commanding position for a World Cup berth with a tie next Sunday at Canada and possibly clinch with a win. The Americans play their final game against El Salvador on Nov. 16 at Foxboro, Mass.
“I think anybody would be happy with one point coming to Mexico,” U.S. forward Eric Wynalda said. “It’s a very difficult place to play.”
In 17 previous games against Mexico in Mexico City since 1937, the Americans had been outscored 69-13.
For Mexico, the tie gave it the point it needed to mathematically qualify for the World Cup. But failing to beat the Americans was humiliating, especially at home.
“None of us is as happy as we should be,” Mexican coach Bora Milutinovic said. “But after all, we are in first place.”
As the second half of the game proceeded with no score, fans began chanting obscenely for the ouster of Bora. The Serbian-born coach led Mexico to a spot in the 1986 World Cup and was the U.S. coach in 1994, when Sampson was his assistant.
Bora was defensive at a postgame news conference, threatening to walk out after a Mexican reporter asked if the game was fixed. “A soccer coach always keeps his suitcase packed,” he said.
Mexico (4-0-4) became the 22nd country to clinch a spot for the 32-nation World Cup in France. xxxx DESTINATION PARIS Remaining U.S. qualifying games: Sunday, Nov. 9, vs. Canada at Burnaby, B.C., 1 p.m. PST. Sunday, Nov. 16, vs. El Salvador at Foxboro, Mass., 11 a.m. PST. Teams that have qualified: Europe: Austria, Bulgaria, Denmark, England, x-France, Germany, Netherlands, Norway, Romania, Scotland, Spain. South America: Argentina, x-Brazil, Colombia, Paraguay Africa: Cameroon, Morocco, Nigeria, South Africa, Tunisia Asia: South Korea. North and Central America and Caribbean: Mexico. Oceania: None.
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