We will take a brief look this week at several memorable qualifying matches for this year’s World Cup that is set to start in Brazil on Thursday.
Much like the label –gate has become a popular suffix to add to political scandals (e.g. Watergate, Valijagate/Maletagate), the term –zo has sometimes been used to describe major soccer upsets at Brazil’s iconic Maracaná Stadium. Originating with the Maracanazo where Uruguay surprised home country Brazil to win the 1950 World Cup, the –zo suffix has been added to other matches like the Condorazo when Chilean goalkeeper Roberto Rojas faked an injury during a 1989 World cup qualifying against Brazil by cutting himself with a razor and smearing ketchup on himself. (The ruse failed as Rojas was banned for life and Chile was barred from the 1990 and 1994 World Cups).
Estadio Azteca has generally been regarded as a fortress for the Mexican national team when it comes to World Cup qualifiers. Since the “Colossus of Saint Ursula” opened in 1966, Mexico has lost only twice at that site in over forty World Cup qualifying matches and both of these shock defeats have been deemed as the Aztecazo.
The first Aztecazo occurred in 2001 when a late Hernan Medford goal stunned the home crowd and gave Costa Rica a 2-1 win. The second Aztecazo came over twelve years later at the hands of a surprisingly resolute Honduran side.
Los Catrachos hadn’t beaten Mexico in any competition since 2009 and initially it looked like that streak would continue as Oribe Peralta knocked home the opening goal for El Tri in the sixth minute. The Honduran defense, which was humiliated by Giovanni Dos Santos and Peralta in the first goal, somehow held on despite strong pressure from the home side. The turning point of the match would come early in the second half when Honduras coach Luis Fernando Suárez inserted Jerry Bengtson for Andy Najar. As seen in the video below the page break, the move paid dividends as Bengston teamed up with Carlo Costly and each notched a goal within a three-minute span to give Honduras an unexpected and historic comeback win:
The Bengtson-Costly connection would go on to score three more goals in Honduras’ remaining qualifiers to help assure their ticket to Brazil. Mexico would hit rock bottom in the next match with yet another “dos a cero” loss to the U.S. and they were eventually forced to rely on their northern neighbors to avoid an embarrassing elimination.
Mexico faces stiff competition in World Cup Group A against Cameroon, Croatia and one of the tournament favorites in Brazil. Meanwhile online bookies have prognosticated that Honduras will be the tournament’s worst team with some websites giving the team 4000/1 odds that they’ll pull off another Maracanazo and win the World Cup.
Video Source – YouTube users Canal Tico and HONDUFUT
Online Sources – Deadspin; The Latin Americanist; Oddschecker