MEXICO CITY (AP) — To Mexicans, it's just unthinkable: Their soccer-crazed country stands a chance of not qualifying for the World Cup.
Worse yet, it was a 2-0 loss Tuesday night to their bitter northern rival — the U.S. — that has left Mexico out of position for a spot in next year's 32-nation tournament. The team known as the Tri has only two games left to make up ground.
It's a front-page disaster. One newspaper calls it the "Tritanic." A sample of other headlines: "Fiasco," ''Crisis," ''Dreadful."
"People see this as the country failing them, especially when it means it may not qualify for the World Cup," said Miguel Angel Lara, an academic who studies sports and society at the Ibero-American University. "Seeing the national team losing like that, two times in a row, really generates hopelessness and disappointment."
Lara says it hurts Mexicans even more because the losing streak comes only a year after Mexico won the gold medal after beating Brazil 2-1 in the London Olympics, an under-23 tournament. They lost their grip with one disappointing draw after the next at the supposedly imposing Azteca Stadium, without scoring goals.
"Our frustration is worse. Take away food from a poor man who you've been feeding for eight days. Just see what happens," he said.
Mexico has not missed a World Cup since 1990. But even then it wasn't because the team lost in their qualifying group, but because FIFA punished it for lying about players' ages.
Altogether, Mexico has scored only four goals in the North and Central American and Caribbean finals this year, dropping into fifth place in the group of six countries. The most likely, and even upbeat, scenario is that the team heads to a playoff against New Zealand to qualify for the world tournament.