22 June ~ France's demise at this World Cup might not be a surprise to anyone who saw how they qualified for the tournament, or how they played in Euro 2008. For some Mexicans and Uruguayans though, it's hard to believe their tentative hopes have actually come true and that an in-no-way engineered draw on Tuesday really would confirm both countries' participation in the second round of the World Cup. Of course, what far fewer people were expecting was that Argentina would suddenly start looking incredibly scary over in the next group, and as such today's clash could turn into as much of a battle to avoid Lionel Messi and company as anything.
On Uruguay's part, there's cautious optimism and what might perhaps be read as a slightly surprised delight that they've got this far and are actually top of the group table going into the final matches – if only on goal difference. Edward Piñón, writing for El País's sports website, delights in Uruguayans not needing "the calculator" for the last match, thanks to the fact that, "we've got an ordered, sober, solid team... that's the base on which our team was constructed". He appears to be wilfully ignoring the fact that a decent win for Mexico combined with a big enough win for either South Africa or France would indeed see the two-times champions reaching for something to work out the goal difference on, but perhaps we can forgive him that. Uruguayans know they need Diego Forlán playing as well as he can, but their defence also gives them a decent chance of the draw they need to top the group.
Mexico, of course, are obliged to go and win the match if they're going to push Uruguay into second (or third). They'll have not one but two players hoping to equal World Cup records. Rafael Márquez will draw level with goalkeeper Antonio Carbajal's Mexican World Cup appearance record of 11 matches. So, if he comes off the bench again, will Cuauhtémoc Blanco, whose fans might feel he's lucky simply to be alive after looking like he might just keel over during his run-up prior to scoring the penalty against France on Thursday.
He might have the physique of a sea lion in a football shirt, but the fact that Blanco is about to jointly equal such a record – with a current team-mate – shows why Mexico have hopes of bettering their opponents today. They've got experience as well as the technique and pace of the younger team members like Giovanni Dos Santos and Javier Hernández. They also have the support of Chilean striker Héctor Mancilla who, having played both South American sides, told Récord that: "[Mexico] have reason to be confident they can beat both Uruguay and Argentina. They've got merits, and players to be respected."
Of course, if Mexico are to win the group, they're the ones who are obliged to attack more. So while the always quietly-spoken Uruguayans seem more happy with what they've already achieved, the Mexican press is a little more urgent in its tone. All the same, even Récord warn their readers, "Uruguay want to win the match". It won't be an entirely easy experience for either side, but at least the wider world can look on knowing that neither seem to be going into it for that most dreaded of footballing results: the mutually-convenient draw. Sam Kelly