Mexico are the kings of minifootball at last after defeating Brazil 4-0 in a rain-soaked Grand Final in Perth, Australia’s Langley Park. It was Mexico’s third bite at the apple after losing in the final in the two previous WMF World Cups in 2015 and 2017.
The game was closer than the final score indicates. Mexico was clinging to a 1-0 lead until the 47th minute when Christian Gutierrez scored on an errant header by Leonardo De Oliveira following a Mexico throw in.
“The wet ground got us on that one,” said Brazil goalkeeper Rainer Hauss. “Leo (De Oliveira) played the ball back and Thiago (Goncalves) slipped a little and there was a Mexican player there that was able to score unfortunately.” From there Hiram Ruiz scored two empty net goals in short order against a desperate Brazil team.
Brazil almost drew first blood, but their best early chance hit off the post to keep the game scoreless. Moises Gonzalez scored what turned out to be the game-winning goal at the 10 minute mark. Gonzalez was named the tournament’s Best Player.
For Brazil, Friday’s final was their first night game of the tournament. When it rained last Friday, the US played, but Brazil’s game was postponed. “The field was slippery for both sides,” said Brazil forward Ricardo Carvalho, “but we haven’t been playing on a slippery field. The Mexican team is really good, but it was tough to play on a field like that.”
With Brazil trailing 1-0 in the second half, Carvalho’s backheel attempt went off the post for a second time for Brazil. “That could have been a game changer, but it is what it is, and we had to keep our heads up and see what happens next time,” he said.
Brazil and Mexico both swept group play and came into the final with unblemished 6-0 records. Mexico arguably had the tougher path to the final, needing to overcome historic minifootball champions Czech Republic and Romania, while Brazil’s biggest hurdle was a largely unchallenged Hungary, who lost the third place game to Romania 1-0, earlier in the day.
Brazil was one of the top defensive teams in the tournament, allowing only seven goals through their first six games. Despite allowing so few goals, they operated on a razor thin margin starting with their 2-0 win over the US in group play. From there, Brazil advanced to the final with three one-goal wins.
Brazil’s biggest scare came in the quarterfinal when Slovakia was awarded a penalty kick for a hand ball as time expired. The Slovaks celebrated the call as if they scored to tie the game 2-2, but their celebration was premature because Hauss stopped the penalty kick to clinch Brazil’s win in dramatic fashion.
Mexico only allowed four goals in their first six games, posting three shutouts. They won their quarter and semifinal games by identical 2-1 scores, and they needed overtime to beat Romania.
Brazil won their semifinal on a cheeky go-ahead chip by Rafael Sixel, while Miguel Vaca scored the game-winning goal for Mexico.
Both teams had been alternating goalkeepers at halftime, but Bernaldino Valdovinos played the entire game in both the quarter and semifinals, essentially displacing Diego Reynoso. Luan Teles played every first half for Brazil and Hauss played every second half.
With four minutes left in the first half of tonight’s game Valdovinos left with an apparent foot fracture. Reynoso relieved him the rest of the way. Valdovinos, in tears, spent the rest of the game being worked on by medical staff near the corner kick spot. When Mexico scored, and finally when they won, players ran over to the corner to celebrate with their fallen comrade. Valdovinos was named Best Goalkeeper of the tournament.
A similar situation happened in the semifinals to Brandon Escoto. Escoto was in tears as he was carried around by a teammate after the game. Through the dedication of the training staff, namely Paul Savage, Escoto was able to play a few shifts in tonight’s game.
Mexico coach Rene Ortiz won three championships as a player with the San Diego Sockers, but he counts this win as extra special. “This is by far the best one,” Ortiz said. “I was with San Diego for three years back in the late ’80s, and obviously they were very special to begin my career. Now as a coach, on a different world stage after losing two World Cups in 2015 and 2017, we learned from those mistakes, giving us the opportunity to have this experience. It’s indescribable. It’s a very unique feeling. I’m very happy, very blessed.”
“I have no words for this,” said defender Guerrero Pino. “I can’t explain the feeling. We worked really hard for this. It was a lot of sacrifices. You see the goalkeeper got hurt. But it was a unity. We were united the whole time since Day 1 and we proved it on the field and off the field. I think we deserve it. We had our moments of difficulty but we came along.”
Before the tournament Ortiz selected the 29-year old to be team captain over some more experienced teammates. “Obviously I took the responsibility to heart,” Pino said. “As my first experience in this kind of tournament, the coaches thought about it and decided for me to be captain and I had to prove myself. Obviously keeping the team together, putting myself out there, putting my body in front of the ball, sacrificing for the team. At the end of the day I’m a defender so it was a huge role but I took the responsibility.”
After losing the third place game at the Pan Am Cup to Mexico in Guatemala last year, and advancing to the final in Perth, Brazil seems to be heading in the right direction.
“We have a very strong team and we can learn our lessons more from the losses than the wins,” says Hauss, “and I’m sure we’re going to come back stronger and hopefully get first place next time.”