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“If we don’t beat Poland, we can forget about making it out of the group”

AS USA caught up with just a few of the many thousands of Mexico fans who have descended on the Gulf state ahead of El Tri’s Group C World Cup opener.

Mexico fans wearing a wrestling mask pose at the Katara Cultura Village during the Qatar 2022 World Cup football tournament in Doha on November 21

In every corner of Doha they are unmissable... the distinctive dark green shirts, draped in the national flag and of course, adorned with the ubiquitous sombrereo. Ahead of the Group C opener against Poland, Mexico fans have taken over in Doha in their thousands. On Monday afternoon, AS USA caught up with some of the ‘El Tri’ fanaticos ahead of the Banderzo at the Katara Cultural Village to the north of Doha city centre.

Oziel Martinez and Javier Arcos (Monterrey)

How easy was it to travel to Qatar and how did you manage to get your hands on match tickets?

OM) I managed to get my hands on quite a few tickets before the groups were established but it was a sort if shot in the dark and getting tickets was trickier once the groups were created. To travel here, and in order to make the trip cheaper, I did have to make quite a few stopovers and a 16 hour journey in total.

JA) It has been impossible to get tickets for the game against Argentina but I did manage to secure a ticket for Argentina against Saudi Arabia. Both of us have only managed tickets to see Mexico play Poland and Saudi Arabia.

What are your initial impressions of Qatar and how do you find the atmosphere?

OM) People have been extremely welcoming but there is very much a feeling among Mexico fans that the key ingredient of alcohol is missing but it has to be said that Doha is a stunning city. We were surprised to hear that Budweiser had been forced to withdraw the sale of beer from around the stadiums.

Moving onto El Tri, do you feel Mexico can go far in the competition under Gerardo ‘Tata’ Martino?

JA) Mexico have not been impressive coming into the tournament it’s fair to say, but are a team always capable of pulling off a surprise. We saw that in recent World Cups against the likes of Germany, Brazil and France and in recent times, we’ve always made it past the group stage?

Do you feel the ‘quinto partido’ is realistic or would you be happy just to progress from the group?

OM) I have doubts about a fifth game but I think we’ll get out of the group, but the game against Poland is critical and if we don’t win tomorrow, even advancing to the knockout stage will be complicated.

Mexico’s lack of fit strikers seems to be an issue?

JA) I think it was a mistake not to take Javier Hernandez (Chicharito) as he has the personality and experience and overlooking Santi Gimenez who is in decent form was a lack of judgement too.

Mexico fans Oziel Martinez & Javier Arcos
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Mexico fans Oziel Martinez & Javier Arcos

Edgar Ramirez (Brownsville, Texas) and Christopher and Edgar Chavez (Oklahoma)

What were the key factors in you deciding on travelling to Qatar for the World Cup?

ER) I mean once Mexico qualified and when we saw the group with Poland and I encouraged the others to make the trip told them, let’s try to go.

CC) For us, the Mexico v Argentina game was a key factor. We get to see and Mexico and probably Messi’s farewell at a World Cup.

What’s impressed you so far about Qatar?

ER) It’s been eye-opening, the people are super nice and the place looks amazing as well. So it’s been it’s been good vibes so far.

Katara cultural village in Doha, Qatar
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Katara cultural village in Doha, QatarABIR SULTANEFE

CC) I think the people are the most most important and to date everyone has been really nice. We’ll see how the organisation works out as obviously it’s their first World Cup and they have some things they need to figure out before but in general, the city looks amazing.

Is Tata Martino the man to lead Mexico on despite the increased criticism levelled at the coach?

CC) I’m hoping that he’ll prove the critics wrong. I was on board with him from the start and loved the way he coached. In the last 18 months, he has called up a few players who I feel shouldn’t have got that call but I remain optimistic.

ER) I wouldn’t say I’m optimistic but the Mexican fan naturally just has hope that they will be successful but my view was dented a bit when we failed to beat the US twice in the qualifying process and that made me question his way and system. I worry about his defensive system with a back four with other Mexican coaches opting for five at the back.

Tata Martino
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Tata MartinoJosé MéndezEFE

How is it that Mexico can bring 50-70,000 fans to the World Cup and previous champions such as Italy, France and Spain struggle to bring fans in four figures?

ER) I think the Mexican fan is a blind optimist and at the same time they love to party. As Mexicans, we we know that there’s talent in the squad there despite many players not playing in Europe. We know that the team has quality and just hope that this can be shown on the world stage.

CC) I think if if the national team matched the fans, we’d have four or five titles.

Looking ahead to 2026 with the World Cup set to be staged in US, Canada and Mexico. What can visiting fans expect in Mexico?

ER) To start with, it’s a true footballing nation, that’s nothing against Qatar but just look at how many Mexicans travelled all the way over here. The Mexican people are amazing, the food’s gonna be great.

CC) Just to add to that the hospitality the people are amazing, and I don’t say this as I’m Mexican, but people are going to have an incredible time and make new friends there for sure.

Mexico fans: Edgar Ramirez, Mexico/Wrexham fan, Edgar and Christopher Chavez
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Mexico fans: Edgar Ramirez, Mexico/Wrexham fan, Edgar and Christopher Chavez