Mexico 1999: Home is where the trophy is
Manuel Lapuente's joyful Mexico side transformed the 1999 FIFA Confederations Cup into one long national celebration. The Tricolores deployed an attacking 3-4-3 formation based around Jorge Campos in goal, Claudio Suárez in defence and the lethal Cuauhtémoc Blanco - Luis Hernández combination up-front. After topping their group by way of a 5-1 trouncing of Saudi Arabia, a 2-2 draw with Egypt and a 1-0 success over Bolivia, the Mexicans came across near-neighbours United States in the semi-finals.
The derby was a typically hard-fought encounter, with neither
side giving quarter in a game of few chances. The match appeared to
be heading for penalties as the clock ran down in extra-time when a
golden goal from Blanco sent the home fans wild. And if those fans
thought things could not get any better, they were wrong.
Mexico's thrilling 4-3 win in the Final over an exciting Brazil
side, inspired by Ronaldinho Gaúcho on top form, remains etched in
the memory of all those fortunate enough to be in the Azteca
stadium on 4 August 1999.
The qualification of the United States and Mexico for the semi-finals gave CONCACAF two of the final four spots. Brazil, meanwhile, got to the Final despite competing without many of their best players. Their stars may have been elsewhere but their understudies fought hard and came very close. Saudi Arabia's appearance in the semis was another major surprise - especially as Milan Macala's men were thrashed 5-1 by the hosts in their opening game.
The experience of old hands Mohammed Al Deayea, Saleh Al Dawod and Nawaf Al Temyat was vital in picking the Saudis up after that defeat. A 0-0 draw with Bolivia steadied the ship, before a 5-1 crushing of Egypt earned them a semi-final showdown with Brazil. Unfortunately that showdown soon turned into a massive letdown, as the South Americans put the Sons of the Desert to the sword (8-2). Fourth place was a more than creditable achievement for the Saudis nonetheless.
Germany, Saudi Arabia, Bolivia, Brazil, Egypt, United States, Mexico and New Zealand.
Mexico City and Guadalajara.
- Ronaldinho Gaúcho (BRA), Cuauhtémoc Blanco (MEX), Marzouk Al Otaibi (KSA), 6 goals