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Tuesday, June 28, 2011
Tie leaves Mexico happy, England disappointed

By Joanne C. Gerstner

WOLFSBURG, Germany -- It didn't take mind-reading abilities to interpret how Mexico and England felt about their Women's World Cup game on Monday.

The English team walked slowly off the Arena Im Allerpark pitch, a mixture of anger and disappointment on its players' faces.

The Mexican team practically bounced into the locker room, with some players clapping their hands and chanting "Meh-i-co!" The overwhelmingly pro-Mexico crowd of 18,702, a mixture of Mexicans and Germans rooting against the English, celebrated as though its team had clearly won.

The Group B game wasn't a victory for either team, ending in a 1-1 tie, but in reality, the Mexicans gained much more. Both teams receive a point, deadlocking them in a tie for second place in the group behind Japan.

This was a game the favored English team was supposed to win. Instead, it leaves Wolfsburg for Dresden, Germany, trying to figure out what happened.

"It was a tough game, as we expected," England coach Hope Powell said. "We're pleased we didn't lose this game, we got a point, but we're disappointed that we didn't win. We had opportunities."

Mexican coach Leonardo Cuellar cherished his team's first-ever points in a World Cup, as this was the first time the squad had not lost in four group games.

Its previous World Cup experience, in the U.S. in 1999, resulted in a combined 15-1 drubbing in three group-round games.

Cuellar predicted on Sunday that his team would need to play "perfectly" to defeat England.

"We were not perfect at all," Cuellar said. "We have not realized any of our goals yet. … I did not like the way we began, but I liked the end.

"We are a very humble team. We are here to work hard and leave it all on the field. We can achieve something special."

No, it wasn't perfection for Mexico, but it was a big step along the line of improvement. This young team, with 16-year-old Cecilia Santiago in goal, hung tough.

The English controlled the ball in the early going, trying to find seams in the Mexican defense. The first English goal seemed inevitable given the time spent deep in the Mexican end.

And so it came, at the 21-minute mark. English forward Karen Carney perfectly placed a corner kick, curling it about eight feet high and toward the top edge of the box. Midfielder Fara Williams revealed her skill in the air, knifing a header into the upper-right corner of Mexico's goal.

The Mexicans seemed to gain confidence as the game wore on, making their own moves into English territory. England slid slowly into the dreaded style Powell hoped it would not show, playing a bit passively and slowly.

Mexican forward Monica Ocampo drilled an unexpected shot from 30 yards out and tucked it into the upper-left corner of the net in the 33rd minute. Ocampo's reaction said it all after she realized she had scored: sheer shock and happiness.

"I did not practice that [shot]; it came in the flow of the game," Ocampo said through a translator. "I did it, and thank God, I had a goal."

English forward Eniola Aluko likely will be reliving the three good scoring chances, including a point-blank one, that didn't go her way. She shared her teammates' melancholy vibe, understanding that the loss of points could hurt down the road.

"It happened, and it didn't go my way; it happens," Aluko said. "I am not going to get down about this. We have another game to play, and we have another chance to pick up points. There's no point beating yourself up over this. You move on."

And with that, Aluko reached down, picked up her bag and walked out.

It was time for England to move on.