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Mexico Enjoys House Party Against Brazil

Soccer: Host wins Confederations Cup, 4-3, before 110,000 at Azteca Stadium.

August 05, 1999|JAMES F. SMITH | TIMES STAFF WRITER

MEXICO CITY — With a rollicking 4-3 upset victory over Brazil, Mexico won its first international soccer crown Wednesday night and proved it is on the road to joining the ranks of the world powers.

Attacking aggressively from the start, Mexico reversed a half-century of losses to Brazil with its decisive win in the Confederations Cup final before a thunderous home crowd of about 110,000 in the famed Azteca Stadium.

Miguel Zepeda, a 23-year-old midfielder, scored twice for Mexico. He opened the scoring in the 13th minute, and teammate Jose Manuel Abundis put Mexico up by a startling 2-0 in the 28th minute.

But the field really belonged to Cuauhtemoc Blanco, the white-shoed Mexican playmaker who set upthree goals, including Zepeda's second score in the 51st minute--and then added his own goal 17 minutes into the second half.

That game-winner, a dancing, juking maneuver past goalkeeper Dida, gave Blanco seven goals in the tournament, second to Brazil's Ronaldinho.

The contest harked back to some of the best matches ever played in Azteca, including a legendary World Cup contest in 1970 in which Italy beat West Germany, 4-3.

"This was very important for us," Blanco said. "We demonstrated that we can play at the same level as the strongest teams anywhere."

Brazilian Coach Wanderley Luxemburgo said: "Mexico deserved the title."

He said his team made critical errors, especially early on when Mexico charged forward repeatedly and took the ball from Brazilian defenders.

The young Brazilian squad, with only three players from its 1998 World Cup team that finished second, "is in a learning phase," Luxemburgo added.

Manuel Lapuente, the Mexican coach, said: "We knew that with Brazil, you have to attack, you can't beat them by defending. So the boys played offensively from the start. And we stayed calm when they caught us."

Just when Mexico had swarmed to a two-goal advantage and appeared in total control, Ronaldinho drew a penalty in the 43rd minute from German Villa that Serginho converted. Roni then tied the game for Brazil in the second minute of the second half.

But instead of collapsing, Mexico stormed back to a 3-2 lead on Zepeda's second goal and Blanco made it 4-2 soon after.

Even though Ze Roberto scored a minute later, Mexico kept its composure and fought off Brazil's late charges.

The game ended with Brazil in disarray and Joao Carlos expelled in the final minute.

Brazil had cruised through much of the tournament--apart from a hard-fought 1-0 victory over the United States--but sometimes appeared to lose concentration.

Four Brazilian stars, Ronaldo, Rivaldo, Roberto Carlos and Cafu, were missing from the squad, a problem that plagued several teams in the eight-team competition. Mexico was at near full strength.

And Mexico needed that edge. The Mexican team came into the contest at almost as severe a historical disadvantage against Brazil as the United States faced on Sunday against Mexico in the semifinal. Mexico defeated the United States, 1-0, in extra time, its 16th win over the Americans against no losses and one draw in Azteca Stadium.

Mexico, in turn, had won just two matches against Brazil since 1950--with 19 losses and four draws. In that span Brazil had scored 53 goals against Mexico's 18.

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