Three quick thoughts after Uruguay's 1-0 victory over Mexico in Group A on Tuesday:
1. The two best teams advanced. Yes, it would have been a nice story for South Africa to go through to the second round, but Uruguay was the best team in the group by a wide margin and Mexico was clearly second best. Group A was mostly devoid of the officiating controversies and goalkeeping drama that have plagued other groups. Save for the chaos from the French camp, the emphasis was on the games. How refreshing.
2. Javier Aguirre's moves resulted in mixed results. You could understand the logic behind Aguirre's decision to start 37-year-old Cuauhtemoc Blanco. In a game with such high stakes, go with the crafty veteran. But at this level Blanco is better coming on as a substitute when a late goal is needed or to slow the game down. Another curious decision: Blanco was named captain, the third different player to wear the armband in three game for El Tri. On the other hand, Aguirre's insertion of Pablo Barrera for Andres Guardado just after half was a brilliant stroke. Most of Mexico's attack in the second stanza flowed through him, and he changed the tone of the game.
3. Francisco Rodriquez was almost la cabra. In the 64th minute, Barrera whipped in a cross from the right and it found Rodriguez, the Mexican defender, alone 8 feet in front of goal. He had to lean into it, but given how close he was, it was easier to hit the target than miss. Yet Rodriguez found a way to send it wide left. Had the game or the result of France-South Africa ended differently, the 28-year-old Rodriguez's effort would have been the difference between El Tri's going through or going home, and he would have been the goat.
We've Got Apps Too
Get expert analysis, unrivaled access, and the award-winning storytelling only SI can provide—from Peter King, Tom Verducci, Lee Jenkins, Andy Staples, Grant Wahl, and more—delivered straight to you, along with up-to-the-minute news and live scores.