Green, white and red — rather than purple and black — were the colors of the night at Chase Field on Wednesday and they were flying proud after the Mexican national soccer team got a "chango" off its back with a 2-0 win over Hungary in a friendly match.
The Mexicans had failed to beat a European team in six tries prior to Wednesday night, dating back to 2002, when Ricardo La Volpe took over the team.
The Mexicans, ranked seventh in the world by soccer’s governing body, FIFA, dominated play, outshooting Hungary 14-3, scoring in each half to send the 32,466 aficionados home happy.
"This was an important game for what we are trying to do," said goal scorer Joel Huiqui.
There was even a little bit of history on Wednesday night. Defender Claudio Suarez, a lastminute addition to the squad, started for Mexico, his 173rd appearance for the national team. That tied him with Mohammed al Deayea of Saudi Arabia for the world record.
"It was more important for the national team to win tonight, beat a European team and end the year well," Suarez said.
Francisco Fonseca, who scored the first goal, said the 37-year-old Suarez helped stabilize a young defense. For his efforts, Suarez was awarded the "man of the match," or MVP of the game.
"We still have work to do but we never got lazy," he said. "We took the game seriously and the result was good."
The horns were blaring and the accented chants of "Mexico" could be heard well before the 8 p.m. kickoff Wednesday as the Mexican national soccer team played its final game of 2005.
The year saw Mexico get its No. 7 world ranking and one of eight seeds for
next summer’s World Cup in Germany.
What will 2006 bring?
If Wednesday night is any indication, plenty. The Mexicans have much to prove after disappointing exits from the last three World Cups. Mexico has lost in the round of 16 in the 1994, 1998 and 2002 tournaments.
But La Volpe, an Argentine who took over after the 2002 Cup, is putting together a young, attacking team that wasn’t all together on Wednesday night but was enough against the 71stranked team in the world.
"It was a good match," Suarez said. "(Considering) we had never seen (Hungary) and we had only trained together for a day or two and it came out well. The team listened to what La Volpe wanted and the team played a good game."
It all came together in the 33rd minute for Mexico when Juan Pablo Rodriguez took a corner kick to the right of the goal. Earlier in the half, Rodriguez merely passed the ball to a nearby teammate to set up an attack. But on this occasion, he made a perfect cross to the middle of the box. Fonseca jumped between Hungary’s Zoltan Balog and Krisztian Vermes for a textbook header from about 10 yards out that got past Hungarian goalkeeper Balazs Rabockzki to give Mexico a 1-0 lead.
In the 52nd minute, Rodriguez took a free kick to the far left of the goal that Joel Huiqui deflected with the outside of his left foot, just inside Rabockzki, for the second Mexican goal. The Mexicans coasted the rest of the night to the delight of the fans, who were overwhelmingly cheering for the "Tricolor," or three color, a reference to the red, white and green of the Mexican flag.
"We finally beat a team from Europe; the year has ended well," Fonseca said. "We are just glad to win for all of our supporters."
The national team will return to the United States on Jan. 25 for a match against Norway in San Francisco. The Mexicans will play several games before opening play in the World Cup next June.
They should give their fans plenty to cheer about if they continue improving as they have. Mexico lost to 39thranked Bulgaria 3-0 last month in Houston.
One of the biggest cheers on Wednesday night came with less than 10 minutes gone. Hungary midfielder Denes Rosa kicked Mexico defender Jose Olvera in the leg during a fight for possession and resulted in Rosa’s ejection. Olvera recovered quickly and Rosa was escorted out of Chase Field to raucous cheers of fans in the south end zone.