The coaches of Mexico and Uruguay joined forces on Monday to dismiss suggestions they might collude to produce the draw that would put both their teams into the World Cup last 16.
The state of play in Group A has led to fears that Tuesday’s match between the Latin American countries could degenerate into a stalemate which would allow both of them to advance and carve France and South Africa out of the tournament.
Mexican coach Javier Aguirre and his Uruguayan counterpart Oscar Tabarez described that scenario as unthinkable.
“This is the first time I have heard anything about some kind of implicit pact but we are going to go out there to try and win,” Aguirre said after his side’s eve-of-match training session at the Royal Bafokeng stadium.
“Let us hope football will be the winner, that there will be a robust match and that the best side will win.
“If as a consequence of what happens on the pitch there is a draw and both sides qualify we will both be happy. But I can assure you we will both be going for a win.”
Tabarez added: “I think all this talk is people being imaginative and lacking respect for the players and coaches who will actually be playing tomorrow. But talk is cheap, so let’s just leave it there.”
Asked if the fear of losing could see the match reduced to a non-competitive encounter, Tabarez replied: “We have to see tomorrow but there is no reason to believe in what you said. We will see how the match unfolds but there is nothing premeditated.”
Mexico go into the match on the back of a famous win over France and have never lost to Uruguay in a competitive match. But it is Tabarez’s squad who have arguably looked the more impressive here, having held France to a draw and then beating hosts South Africa 3-0.
Aguirre, who coached Mexico at the 2002 finals and as a player was a member of the squad that reached the 1986 quarterfinals, added: “I don’t need to say anything to my players, they know what is at stake.
“This is a very open group, no-one has a ticket for the last 16. We’re cool, calm and collected and we are only thinking about winning tomorrow.”
A draw on Tuesday would leave Uruguay and Mexico both on five points, out of reach of both France and South Africa, and the Uruguayans would top the group on goal difference.
“Up until now, Uruguay has been the best team in the group so we need to be highly motivated against them,” Aguirre added. “That’s what we tried to convey to my players, we need those three points tomorrow.”
The fact that the side which finishes second in the group is likely to face Argentina provides an incentive for Mexico to try and win the match, but Aguirre would not be drawn on speculating about potential match-ups in the knockout stage.
“We have to try and impose our game and our style, try to do better than Uruguay. After we’ve done that I can answer any questions. At the moment we have nothing. This group stage is not over yet.”
Tabarez also insisted he had not given a second thought to the issue of avoiding Uruguay’s neighbours and bitter rivals.
“It is certainly not a question of praying or lighting candles in the hope of playing one team or another one,” he said.
“What we want to do is qualify and top the group if we can but not because we want to avoid Argentina. What if Greece beat Argentina and they end up second in their group? It is not likely but it is not impossible.”
Mexico will be without injured striker Carlos Vela and suspended defender Efrain Juarez while Uruguay have confirmed their side will be unchanged from the one which outclassed South Africa. — AFP