Mexico forward Javier Hernandez has scored five goals in nine games in the Bundesliga this season. Gregory Bull
Grudge match

Days after Trump's election, USA take on Mexico in a politically charged World Cup qualifier

Both sides have made the CONCACAF Fifth Round and are vying for a place in Russia in 2018.

ON FRIDAY NIGHT, or 12.45am Saturday morning Irish time, undoubtedly the most politically charged match of the international break takes place.

USA host Mexico at the MAPFRE Stadium, Columbus, Ohio — where the Americans have never lost to their rivals in 25 years — in a highly anticipated clash.

The game is not particularly crucial, at least not in a footballing context.

Both sides progressed with relative ease in the fourth round. Mexico came top, winning five and drawing one in a group featuring Honduras, Canada and El Salvador.

Meanwhile, United States also came first ahead of Trinidad and Tobago, Guatemala and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, with four wins, one draw and one loss.


Now the pair face off in both sides’ first match of the fifth round, and these bitter rivals are ultimately expected to take two of the three automatic qualification spots in the group regardless of the result on Friday.

Mexico, of course, play USA regularly in World Cup qualifiers, but the political undertones for Friday’s clash in particular will make for a fascinating spectacle.

The matches between the two always have the feel of a local derby, but there is a particular antipathy between the countries currently.

Infamously, new US President Donald Trump said the following about Mexico during his campaign.

“When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re not sending you. They’re not sending you. They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.

But I speak to border guards and they tell us what we’re getting. And it only makes common sense. It only makes common sense. They’re sending us not the right people.

“A lot of people up there can’t get jobs. They can’t get jobs, because there are no jobs, because China has our jobs and Mexico has our jobs. They all have jobs.

I would build a great wall, and nobody builds walls better than me, believe me, and I’ll build them very inexpensively, I will build a great, great wall on our southern border. And I will have Mexico pay for that wall.”

So suffice to say, relations between the US and Mexico are not especially healthy at the moment, particularly in light of Trump’s unexpected triumph.

There are shades of the similarly politically charged match between USA and Iran at the 1998 World Cup, and while that game passed without incident, we could be in for an extremely heated affair on 11 November with the election of Trump still very much fresh in people’s memories.


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