MEXICO CITY -- Ouch.

That is how chagrined Mexicans were reacting Wednesday to the latest twist in their sometimes-beloved (but not so much lately) national soccer team’s torturous efforts to reach the World Cup.

First, the humiliation.

Mexico lost, 2-1, Tuesday night to tiny Costa Rica, the country without an army.

Then, Mexico was saved.

But ...

Of all the countries to keep Mexico’s chances alive, it just had to be the United States.

The U.S. victory over Panama, 3-2, also Tuesday night, eliminated the Panamanians and gave Mexico a fourth-place finish in the Americas group and the final berth in next month’s playoff against New Zealand.

“Miracles happen,” renowned Mexican movie director Alfonso Cuaron (“Gravity”) quipped on a morning chat show. “Mexico, by losing, advances.”

The Twitter world came alive, a “trending topic” being “Gracias USA.” The thanks were tinged with a fair amount of sarcasm, of course.

“Thanks, USA. You can keep Texas and California!” wrote Mario Delgado, a leftist senator.

“Everyone to the Statue of Liberty!” declared Twitter user Miguel12, alluding to the Mexican tradition of flocking to the country’s most famous statue, the Angel of Independence, to celebrate victories.

“Like in the movies,” wrote JuanIZavala. “The gringos arrive and they save us.”

It probably didn't help that the official Twitter account of the U.S. squad added:

 

 

On a more serious note, Mexican analysts have spent much time lately wringing their hands over the travails of the national futbol team. After winning Olympic gold just a year ago, the squad’s performance through most of the current tournament has been mediocre, if not downright terrible.

El Tri, as the team is known, lost several games at home, where it traditionally has had an advantage. Its star players, who belong to European clubs but who may not get a lot of field time there, have not played well. Much of the blame went to the coach, who was fired two matches ago.

Mexico has not missed a World Cup in nearly a quarter-century. Now all eyes turn to New Zealand.

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